Eczema (varicose)

Causes of varicose eczema

Varicose eczema is caused by poor circulation in the legs. It often develops after varicose veins have formed, for the following reason:

  • The valves in the veins in your legs weaken and fail to function properly.
  • This allows blood in the surface veins to flow backwards.
  • Surface veins become enlarged due to the backward flow.
  • The pressure in the veins is also increased, and leads to swelling in the nearby skin. 

It is not understood why some people with varicose veins go on to develop varicose eczema, and others do not.

Causes of lipodermatosclerosis

Skin discolouration, scarring and swelling near the ankle are caused by vein problems in the legs. This is called lipodermatosclerosis.

Lipodermatosclerosis may be caused by varicose veins or can develop when the deep veins have been affected by clots (deep vein thrombosis). It happens in this way:

  • The valves in the surface or deep veins in your legs weaken and fail to function properly.
  • This allows blood in the veins to leak and flow backwards.
  • High pressure develops in the veins, which is highest near the ankle.
  • This damages small vessels in the skin, leading to swelling and scarring of the skin.
  • Red blood cells leak out of the small vessels, causing the skin to turn brown.

Lipodermatosclerosis can affect middle-aged to elderly people. It is not understood why some people with vein problems develop lipodermatosclerosis and others do not.

Glossary

Veins
Veins are blood vessels that carry blood from the rest of the body back to the heart.
Blood
Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.
Last updated: 04 October 2011

Continue to next section: Diagnosing varicose eczema