Keep the Blood Pumping

October 18, 2011
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Let’s revisit our discussion on dermatitis. So far, the forms of dermatitis that we have discussed had to do with a substance irritating the surface of the skin. But it is important to remember that there are internal factors that can cause dermatitis.

Stasis dermatitis is a form of skin irritation that results from problems with blood flow, especially on the lower leg. Under normal circumstances, blood flows away from the heart in arteries, unloads the oxygen it carries to body organs and tissues, then ending its journey by flowing back to the heart in veins. In order to prevent backflow of blood, veins have valves that make sure to keep blood flowing in the correct direction.

With stasis dermatitis, the valves in veins can malfunction and lose their ability to direct blood flow. Instead of being directed back to the heart, the blood pools and sits in the veins in the foot and lower leg. The veins begin to expand as the volume of blood within them increases. This leads to increased pressure inside the veins, pushing fluid out into the skin, giving the lower leg a swollen appearance. In addition, some of the pooling red blood cells can break down and cause the overlying skin to be discolored. The skin can become itchy, and it may cause people to have night cramping.

Probably the most serious complication of this condition is called a stasis ulcer. Unlike other ulcers, this sore is not due to friction or trauma. It is thought that the overlying skin is starved of adequate oxygen, causing the skin to die and form a very painful ulcer. To make matters worse, the ulcer usually does not heal quickly and can be an entry point for infectious bacteria into the body.

Luckily, podiatrists have become specialists in this arena of medicine. There are many potential treatments available that have shown to be beneficial. We’ll discuss treatment options in our next blog post.

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