Eczema is a common skin condition that primarily affects children but is also found in adults. Although flare-ups can happen anywhere, they occur most often on our body’s “bendable” portions. On the legs, that means the knees, both front and back, and around the ankles and feet.
The only way to guarantee that you never develop eczema on legs is to call them something else, like “hobble knobs” or “standy-sticks.” After all, you can’t get eczema on your legs if they aren’t called legs. However, we don’t recommend this strategy because when you complain about how itchy your stroll poles are, no one will know what you’re talking about.
The best way to manage eczema on your legs, or anywhere else it occurs, is to follow the procedures we’ll detail later in this article. But first, let’s look at eczema on legs (or “trample trunks” or whatever you choose to call them) in a bit more detail.
The Most Common Types of Eczema on Legs
The four types of eczema that occur most frequently on the legs are atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, stasis dermatitis, and asteatotic eczema.
This type of eczema is most commonly found in children under five. It’s caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. If you suffer from hay fever or asthma, there’s also a good chance you’ll have run-ins with atopic dermatitis as well. Atopic dermatitis on the legs commonly occurs around flexural areas like behind the knees and around the ankles.
Unlike atopic dermatitis, which has a strong genetic component, contact dermatitis is mainly triggered by contact (hence the name) with external irritants. This condition isn’t restricted to flexural locations. Instead, it can cause eczema on legs wherever the skin makes contact with an allergen or other irritant.
Also known as varicose eczema, stasis dermatitis is common among people suffering from varicose veins. Doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes this type of eczema, but our current, best understanding holds that damaged leg veins cause an increase in local blood pressure. This causes fluid to leak through the weakened vein walls into the surrounding tissue. Stasis dermatitis appears to be an immune reaction to this extra fluid.
Bringing things full circle, unlike atopic dermatitis that mainly affects children under five, asteatotic eczema is most common in people over 60. As we age, our skin loses moisture naturally. In some individuals, this can result in itchy, dry, cracking patches of eczema, found most commonly on the lower legs.
How to Treat Eczema on Legs
We know that external irritants trigger contact dermatitis, but in truth, nearly all forms of eczema have an external component. And while we can’t control our genetics, we can control our environment, what we wear, and what we allow to contact our skin. Keeping your skin moisturized and preventing irritation should be your first course of action.
Avoid hot water and overly hot or cold, dry air. These extremes can dry out the skin and worsen symptoms. Shower or bathe in lukewarm water and avoid heavy cleansers laden with dyes, fragrances, and other harsh additives. Happy Cappy’s daily shampoo and body wash is an excellent choice. It cleans gently but thoroughly, and it won’t dry out your skin.
After you’ve toweled off, apply a hypoallergenic moisturizing cream. Happy Cappy’s baby eczema cream is perfect for children and adults. It provides a nourishing moisture barrier that’s free of chemicals that can trigger or exacerbate flare-ups. Reapply frequently.
Beyond this, you should avoid rough or scratchy clothing, cosmetics and other skincare products that aren’t skin-friendly, and — very important — scratching. Eczema can be very uncomfortable but resist the urge to scratch, as this will further irritate the area and may cause weeping or bleeding.
It’s also worth mentioning compression stockings for stasis dermatitis. They squeeze and support the lower leg to help reduce internal pressure, which reduces fluid leakage and can help with the resulting eczema symptoms.
Avoiding irritants while caring for yourself with a full-spectrum skincare routine for dry skin will help keep eczema on legs (or shimmy shanks, or getaway gams) in check and as comfortable as possible.
It’s okay. We know it’s fun to say “shimmy shanks.” Repeat it to yourself a few times and then take proper care of them. They’re the only shanks you get.