Lower Leg Conditions
Gravitational eczema, also known as varicose or stasis eczema is a common skin condition which affects the lower legs of adults. If left untreated, the skin can break down to form ulcers, which are then difficult to heal. It is usually seen in middle-aged or elderly people, but it can occur from teenage years onwards. It is more likely to occur if you have high blood pressure, varicose veins, or had a deep vein thrombosis or phlebitis in the past. Women have a much higher chance of developing gravitational eczema since female hormones and pregnancy increase the risk.
The pressure of the blood in the veins is greater in the lower leg than anywhere else in the body when we stand up. As we get older and less active the blood moves less well up our veins and can collect in the lower legs.
If the leg vein walls are weak, they cannot hold a high pressure in them and varicose veins develop, appearing as dark blue wiggly, raised bulges on the legs’ surface. Fluid can pool in the lower legs and ooze through the vein walls into the surrounding space, causing the ankles to swell. This becomes especially noticeable in the evening after a day spent standing up during hot weather, when the legs ache and feel heavy. Blood may then leak through the very small vessels, causing red-brown speckled spots to appear on the skin which becomes hot and itchy – tiny blisters can also appear, usually just above the inside of the ankle.
Over a period of time, if left untreated, the skin becomes thin and fragile, and looks shiny and flaky. This skin may crack if it becomes over-dry, or if scratched or picked. Trauma to that area can also break the skin and cause further irritation. If left untreated, the wound can deepen and widen, and the resulting wound is called a varicose ulcer, also known as a venous, or stasis, ulcer. These ulcers are typically found just above the inside of the ankle. They often ooze and can attract bacteria, both of which can aggravate the surrounding skin, making the eczema even worse.
Gravitational eczema can be helped in a number of ways
- Exercise is important – a spot of brisk walking twice a day or climbing stairs, can help push blood through leg veins.
- Keeping the skin soft and supple by using emollients prevents the skin from cracking. Lightly apply the emollient in smooth downward strokes so that the skin glistens. Do not use a circular motion or apply it upwards as this will cause the emollient to clog your pores and irritate the skin.
- Hot water will cause dehydration of the skin and itchiness – so bathe or shower in cool to warm water.
- Avoid using soap and bubble bath – these dry out the skin and can irritate the eczema.
If the skin becomes hot and inflamed, begins to ooze or look different, or if you feel feverish and sweaty, see your doctor, since a skin infection could be starting. This type of eczema can be an on-going problem. The condition flares and wanes but if a good skin care routine is in place it will help to prevent the eczema starting up.
DermaSilk in lower leg conditions
DermaSilk undersocks have been specially designed to be worn close to the skin where they help to prevent over-heating and the drying out of delicate skin around the ankles and lower leg. They also maintain a stable environment for the legs and calm and control irritated skin on the feet.
The DermaSilk Knee-Length Undersocks are not only used to maintain skin integrity but are also used as a liner under compression hosiery to protect the skin from the damaging effects of latex of the compression hosiery. Their smooth silky outer surface also assists in the application and removal of compression hosiery, reducing the risk of accidental damage to the skin.
The bonded antimicrobial in all styles of socks also protects against both bacterial and fungal infection such as Athlete’s Foot.
DermaSilk 70cm Graduated Tubular Sleeves have been specifically developed for those with larger limbs, including lymphoedema patients. The tubes stretch to variable degrees along their length to ease the irritation on the limb with discomfort or added compression.