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What Causes Skin Discoloration in the Legs?

skin discoloration on legs

Do you have unusually red or dark skin on your lower legs, ankles or feet? Does the skin on your legs look or feel different than the skin on the rest of your body? If you have noticed skin discoloration or texture changes on your lower extremities, these warning signs should not be ignored. Out-of-the-ordinary skin symptoms on your legs are often a sign of underlying venous insufficiency.

To address the condition of your skin, it is essential to first investigate the underlying cause of your symptoms. Dr. Manu B. Aggarwal and her expert staff at the Vein Care Center have the experience, knowledge and state-of-the-art technology to diagnose and treat venous insufficiency. After you learn more about skin discoloration caused by circulation problems, contact us to schedule a vein evaluation at one of our offices in Lima, Celina or Bluffton, Ohio.

What is venous insufficiency?

Venous insufficiency is a circulatory issue that occurs when the one-way valves in the veins weaken, leak and cannot adequately push blood back to the heart. This causes increased pressure inside the veins, which leads to further weakening of the veins throughout the legs and the collection of blood in the lower legs and feet.

What are the skin symptoms of venous insufficiency?

Venous insufficiency can impact the skin on the legs, ankles and feet in various ways and may cause the following symptoms:

  • Red, brown or purple skin
  • Irritated or inflamed skin
  • Painful, leathery, hard skin
  • Dry, scaly or crusty skin that may ooze fluid
  • Skin ulcers or open sores
  • Cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin, can occur

How does venous insufficiency impact the skin?

Pooling blood and leaking fluids are ultimately the cause of skin discoloration in the legs:

  • Venous insufficiency causes discoloration in the legs when blood collects in the veins instead of flowing back to the heart. As the blood pools, the pressure inside the veins builds, causing the veins to leak. This unwelcome fluid irritates and inflames the surrounding tissue, resulting in painful, discolored and serious skin conditions.
  • Blood is not meant to be stagnant. When it pools under the skin for a period of time, the iron in the blood collects in the skin. As the iron is broken down, it can make the skin turn brown or black.
  • When skin is chronically swollen and inflamed from pooled, stagnant fluid, scar tissue can develop, changing the texture of the skin from supple and flexible to thick and hard.

Skin Conditions Resulting from Venous Insufficiency

We typically see the following skin conditions in patients with venous insufficiency:

  • Venous Stasis Dermatitis: Also called venous eczema, this skin condition occurs most often in the lower legs. Diseased veins are unable to efficiently circulate blood, causing a build-up of blood and pressure within the veins. As a result of the increased pressure, blood may leak from the veins and into the skin, causing the skin to become extremely irritated, red, dry, cracked, itchy, inflamed or swollen. In severe cases, the skin can become thick and dark and feel like leather to the touch.
  • Hemosiderin Deposits: Hemosiderin is caused when the iron in red blood cells is broken down. When blood pools in the lower extremities, iron collects in the skin. As the iron breaks down, these deposits can appear as purple or brown bruises on the lower legs, ankles and feet.
  • Varicose Veins: These bulging, twisted ropes develop when blood collects inside veins. The veins may look like purple and enlarged worms under the skin. Varicose veins may cause further discoloration to the skin if blood seeps from the damaged vein and into surrounding tissues.
  • Spider Veins: These small, thin veins appear close to the surface of the skin, are red, purple or blue and branch out like a lightning strike. While spider veins are usually painless, they are noticeable and can significantly discolor the skin.
  • Skin Ulcers: Poor circulation can cause open wounds to develop on the surface of the skin, usually around the ankles. These sores are slow to heal and challenging to treat.

What should I do if I have skin discoloration on my legs?

If the skin on your legs looks different, feels unusual or has you concerned, it is best to be evaluated by a vein specialist. The longer your symptoms go untreated, the more difficult they become to treat. Don’t wait any longer. Call the Vein Care Center today at 419-227-4472 to schedule your vein evaluation with Dr. Manu B. Aggarwal. Dr. Aggarwal is Ohio’s leading vein expert, and she is Board Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. Dr. Aggarwal is also certified by the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine to provide our patients in Ohio with the most comprehensive vein care and treatment.

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