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Varicose Eczema

How can varicose eczema be prevented?

There are a number of things you can do yourself to prevent varicose eczema from occurring/reoccurring:

  • Look after your legs – extra care and attention to your legs is needed for the rest of your life.
  • Lose weight if necessary.
  • Varicose veins can be treated, so consult your doctor if you think you have them. Although unfortunately, in some regions, varicose vein surgery or laser treatment is not available on the NHS.
  • If you have varicose veins, your leg veins should be supported at all times. For mild cases which require low‐strength compression, elastic support stockings or tights, available from most pharmacies, are adequate. For more severe varicose veins, compression hosiery is made to measure and can be prescribed by your doctor or nurse.
  • If you have a venous ulcer, you will need compression bandages, which will be applied by a nurse, when your leg ulcer is dressed.
  • Always put any compression hosiery on before you get out of bed in the morning before any fluid can build up in your ankles.
  • Try not to stand still for a long time. If you have to, then frequently flex your feet or bend down at the knees. This will help to keep blood moving in the veins. Sitting is better than standing still, especially if you can sit with your feet up.
  • Exercise is important – a brisk walk twice a day or walking up stairs, can make your leg muscles work and help push blood through their veins.

How is varicose eczema treated?


Keep the skin soft and supple by using an emollient (medical moisturiser), available on prescription from your doctor or over the counter at a pharmacy, to prevent the skin from cracking. Emollients are key in the management of all types of eczema and you can find out more about them by clicking here.

Apply emollient to your legs at least twice a day or more often if your skin is really dry – emollients can be used all over your body if your skin is generally dry. Lightly apply the emollient in smooth downward strokes so that the skin shines. 

Avoid using soap and bubble bath – these dry out the skin and can irritate the eczema. Use your leave on emollient as a soap substitute – apply it to wet skin in place of soap. A special bath emollient to prevent skin dryness is also available from your doctor or pharmacist. Added to the bath water, this will make your skin feel more comfortable, but the bath will be very slippery, so be careful – ask for help when getting into and out of the bath or use an anti‐slip mat in the bath. Hot water will cause dehydration of the skin and itchiness, so bathe or shower in cool to warm water.

Don’t use liniments or alcohol rubs on your legs as these irritate the skin and dry it out further. Perfumes are also likely to irritate the skin so avoid any product containing them. If you react to a lot of creams, your GP may suggest a visit to a dermatologist for patch testing to find out what you are sensitive to.

Topical steroids

If the eczema is flaring and very itchy, you may also be prescribed a moderate to potent topical steroid by your doctor but only apply them to areas of active eczema as directed by your prescribing doctor. Never use a cream prescribed for someone else.

You will find more information about topical steroids if you click here


Bandages covered in zinc oxide (zinc paste bandages BP or Zipzoc®), with an outer bandage applied to prevent mess, can be very soothing when applied to the eczema. They help reduce scaliness and protect the skin from knocks and scratching. Your nurse or doctor can prescribe paste bandages and your nurse will need to teach you how to apply them properly.  They are messy, however, and can sometimes irritate the skin. Occasionally, allergies may develop, so tell your doctor if your eczema gets worse after using them.

Other special dressings are available if an ulcer develops. These are best used under the supervision of a doctor or nurse.


If your skin becomes hot and inflamed, begins to ooze or look different, or if you feel feverish and sweaty, see your doctor since this could be the start of a skin infection for which you would need to be prescribed antibiotics.

If your skin is oozing and crusty, a wet soak may be advised – usually potassium permanganate dissolved in water (a tablet is put in a bucket of water and should dilute to a pale pink ‘rose wine’ colour). Soak the leg in this solution, or soak a flannel in it, and leave on the area for 15 minutes. This treatment does stain your skin (and the bath etc.), so use it carefully!

The National Eczema Society has a fact sheet all about varicose eczema that you can download from the related documents to the right of this page.