Diagnosing varicose eczema 

See your GP if you have symptoms of varicose eczema. They can usually make a diagnosis by simply looking at the affected areas.

Your GP will also ask you questions to determine whether you have a problem with the flow of blood in your leg veins, as this is the main cause of varicose eczema.

To help make a diagnosis, your GP may want to know if you have a history of:

  • varicose veins – swollen and enlarged veins
  • deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a blood clot in one of the deep veins of your legs
  • leg ulcers – areas of damaged skin that take several weeks to heal
  • cellulitis – an infection of the deeper layers of the skin and underlying tissue
  • surgery or injury to your legs

Your GP may also check the pulse in your feet and they may carry out an ankle brachial pressure index (ABPI) test to see if compression stockings are suitable for you. See the section on treating varicose eczema for more information about these.

The ABPI test involves comparing blood pressure readings taken from your ankles and upper arms. A significant difference in the readings suggests a problem with the flow of blood in your arteries – in which case, compression stockings may not be safe to use.

Referral to a specialist

You may be referred to a specialist in a local hospital for further tests. This might be a vascular specialist (a doctor or surgeon specialising in conditions affecting the blood vessels) or a dermatologist (a specialist in skin conditions) if:

  • you have varicose veins and changes to your skin, such as varicose eczema, lipodermatosclerosis (hard, tightened skin) or a history of leg ulcers
  • you have very poor blood flow in the blood vessels in your legs 
  • your symptoms don't get better, despite treatment 
  • it is possible that you may have contact dermatitis

Page last reviewed: 20/10/2014

Next review due: 20/10/2016