Eczema on Legs

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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 eczema 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.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is the most familiar form of eczema. It commonly begins in early childhood and fades with time but can remain through or occur during adulthood.

Patches of dry, red or red-brown or purple-gray skin covered in an itchy, scaly rash characterize the condition. These can occur anywhere but are most often found on the cheeks, elbow creases, buttocks, and, salient to our topic, behind the knees.

With atopic dermatitis, your skin’s natural protective barrier is damaged by a combination of genetic and environmental causes. This leads to rapid moisture loss and an increased susceptibility to external irritants. The condition is thought to have both autoimmune and allergenic causes.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis can be found on the legs but can also occur anywhere on the body. It’s triggered by either an allergic or irritant reaction to something making contact with your skin, so you’ll find it wherever contact happens.

The condition’s characteristic rashes are similar to atopic dermatitis and are distinguished more by their cause than their presentation. To make the distinction, look for correlations between skin patch locations and where various irritating or allergenic substances make contact.

In more severe reactions, hives or oozing blisters may occur along with the more typical eczema rash. To reduce future occurrences, pay close attention to what your skin comes into contact with before a flare-up. Once you know your triggers, you can avoid them. Common causes include:

  • Jewelry
  • Skincare products
  • Soaps and cleansers
  • Fragrances
  • Makeup
  • Latex
  • Solvents


Unlike atopic dermatitis, which can be widespread, neurodermatitis is usually narrowly focused in one or two specific locations. The condition’s patches are the same thick, scaly rashes found in atopic dermatitis, but the itching tends to be more severe and can be a painful burning sensation. These rashes tend to bleed because the intense itch is difficult to avoid scratching.

Neurodermatitis is often found on the legs but can also occur on the scalp, feet, arms, hands, neck, or genitals. Doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes this eczema variety, but stress appears to be a trigger.

Nummular Eczema

Nummular eczema is named for the shape of its rashes. In Latin, “nummular” means “coin.” This type of eczema forms round, coin-sized rashes that are usually mildly itchy, triggered by insect bites or external allergens, similar to contact dermatitis. It can be found anywhere that bites or skin contact occurs, the legs included.

Stasis Dermatitis

Also known as varicose eczema, or “venous stasis dermatitis,” 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 and causes damage to the skin around the ankles, shins, and calves.

During the day, this fluid pools in the skin of your lower legs, causing swelling and difficulty walking. The skin around the affected area may turn red, yellow, or brown, and the skin can become dry, thickened, and scaly, sometimes accompanied by oozing, crusty sores. It can be accompanied by varicose veins. Stasis dermatitis appears to be an immune reaction to this extra fluid.

Asteatotic Eczema

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.

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.

Treating eczema on legs starts the same way, regardless of variety — with a complete solution for maintaining skin health. Dr. Eddie’s Happy Care skincare routine for dry skin features a two-step process for retaining moisture and preventing damage to your skin’s protective layer. Our gentle shampoo and body wash cleanses without harsh ingredients. Follow this with our hypoallergenic moisturizing cream to strengthen your skin’s natural protection. This will help keep eczema on your 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.

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Dr. Eddie Valenzuela is an award winning pediatrician and the founder and CEO of Pediatric Solutions, LLC.

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