Stasis eczema is a condition that affects the skin due to poor circulation.
The word ‘stasis’ denotes a period of inactivity and in stasis eczema, it refers to the stagnation of fluid that should otherwise circulate freely around the body.
This fluid build up prevents proper healing of the area, limiting the clearance of unwanted metabolites.
As a consequence, the skin becomes inflamed, sore, dry and itchy.
Stasis eczema is also known as varicose eczema because it’s common in people with varicose veins.
When it occurs in the legs, the fluid is affected by gravity so it can also be described as gravitational eczema.
If you visit your GP with stasis eczema, you might be offered moisturisers and emollients, that help to hydrate the skin.
If the problem is particularly bad, you may be given a steroid cream to deal with the inflammation.
If the affected skin is on the ankles or lower limbs, your GP may recommend compression stockings, to help promote blood flow back up the legs and get your circulation moving again.
In severe cases, linked to varicose veins, you may be offered surgery to deal with the weakened vein.
As a herbalist, I find that while topical treatments ease the symptoms, I prefer to deal with and manage the underlying cause.
Veins weaken naturally as we age but this process can be accelerated by standing for long periods, multiple pregnancies and a poor diet, low in coloured fruit and vegetables.
Veins contain tiny valves that push the blood backwards towards the heart and when these valves start to fail, blood and fluid pools in the veins, causing them to swell and stretch.
Since gravity is always pulling fluid downwards, working against these valves, weakened veins are found most commonly in the legs, although any vascular area can be affected by this.
Hemorrhoids are caused by a weakening of the veins and some men suffer with this problem around the scrotum, as it contains a large amount of veins.
As the veins swell, the gaps in the vein walls become larger and fluid leaks into the surrounding areas, instead of being returned to the heart.
This fluid can cause the nearby skin to become discoloured, scaly and itchy, with the discolouration having the potential to become permanent, along with tiny white scars and thickened skin.
If severe, stasis eczema in the ankles can lead ulcers that are stubborn to heal.
When using herbals medicine and taking a holistic approach to stasis eczema, it’s essential to address the circulation of fluid that is underneath the skin, rather than just applying topical creams to ease the discomfort.
I use two main herbs, to promote fluid movement.
One is horse chestnut, a herb with a solid history of supporting vein strength.
By restrengthening the valves in the veins, fluid can be moved away from the skin, returning metabolites to the organs that deal with and eliminate them, such as the liver, kidneys and bowels, stopping them from affecting the skin.
Alongside horse chestnut, I use calendula, my main herb for red, itchy skin conditions.
Calendula is healing and anti-inflammatory to the skin tissue.
In herbal medicine, it’s known as a lymphatic.
The lymphatic system manages fluid that leaks from the veins, collecting it up and returning it to the rest of the body.
I use lymphatic herbs in any instance of swelling, especially in the feet or ankles, to help mop up and move the stagnant fluid that causes the discolouration and flakiness of the skin.
Working on fluid in this way helps to deal with the direct cause of stasis eczema and supports the health of your circulation as a whole.
In addition to using calendula, it’s important to stay mobile if possible, since movement of the leg muscles assists the veins and lymph system in moving fluid and blood back up the leg.
A diet high in coloured vegetables and fruit will provide the body with nutrients essential to vein health and elevating the legs when resting makes gravity work in your favour.
Healthy circulation, means healthy skin.
For more information on this topic, contact Nicola at Health and Herbs, Pedder Street, Morecambe, on 01524 413733.