Do you notice unusual red or dark skin on your legs, ankles, or feet? Does the texture of the skin on your legs look or feel different than the skin on the rest of your body? This is skin discoloration on your lower extremities. Get to know the major causes of skin discoloration of legs to get better treatment.
You should not ignore these warning signs. Out-of-the-ordinary skin discoloration symptoms on your legs can be a sign of underlying venous insufficiency.
What are the general skin discoloration symptoms?
Discoloration can impact the skin on the legs, ankles, and feet in several ways. It may cause the following symptoms:
- Irritated or swollen skin as rashes
- Painful, leathery, and hard skin
- Skin ulcers
- Dry, cracked, or crusty skin that may release fluid
- Red, dark brown, or purple skin of your lower leg, ankles, or feet
Why is Skin Changing its Color?
Legs that are turning darker than the rest of your skin may be a side effect of varicose veins- incompetent veins that aren’t functioning properly. They may result in the blood pools in your legs leading to inflammation both in your veins and possibly in your legs themselves. Additionally, red blood cells may leak outside the varicose veins. These cells have some red pigment that, over time, may contribute to the darker skin color.
The abundance of red blood cells causes your legs to change color, affecting the appearance of your feet. Hence, plaque builds resulting in a condition known as Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) which occurs when plaque sticks to your arteries. It narrows your blood vessels significantly and thus changing the blood flow throughout your body. As a result, less oxygen-rich blood reaches your lower legs and feet. As compared to the skin darkening related to varicose veins, discoloration related to PAD are unlikely to be accompanied by inflammation. Your dark feet are more likely to be felt cold or even numb.
Also Read: How to Fight Dry Winter Skin
Causes for skin discoloration of legs
There are several potential causes of skin discoloration, while a few are relatively benign and transient. Some causes of skin discoloration in the legs can be much more serious.
You must contact a doctor when notice any changes to an existing birthmark. Also, see a doctor when experiencing any additional symptoms, like those associated with VI or diabetes. The doctor will diagnose the cause of your symptoms and provide appropriate treatments.
Your own habits like smoking can certainly contribute to changes in the color of your leg or feet. Chemicals found in cigarettes speed up your aging process, leaving you with uneven skin tone.
Nicotine also restricts oxygen constricting your blood vessels and blocking blood flow to your extremities. Especially it is dangerous if you have vein conditions that already affect blood flow. If you smoke and have diabetes, check if your feet turning black. You can also be dealing with a dangerous ulcer you haven’t even observed yet.
Do you have birthmarks on your feet? These are marks on your skin that normally appear at birth or just after birth. Different people have different types of birthmarks, and each may vary in form and appearance.
They may be flat or raised and can be as small as a pinhead or cover a much larger area of skin. Birthmarks appearing on feet can be white, pink, red, tan, or brown and may look like a stain or a bruise on the skin.
3. Venous insufficiency
Venous insufficiency (VI) occurs when the veins within the legs do not function properly. Blood in your body faces difficulty to return to the heart which causes blood to pool in your legs. The condition can make your ankles swollen and brown or reddish staining the skin above the ankles. Your skin may develop dry, itchy patches of skin. There may be wounds on the lower legs, which leak fluid and veins become more prominent.
UV radiation from the sun causes sunburn which can damage your skin to change color. If your skin is light, it may become red or tan. But if your skin is dark, it will become darker. Common symptoms of severe sunburn are dry, itchy, or peeling skin. Skin inflammation, pain, skin swelling, and blistering can also occur.
Do you spend an excessive amount of time in the sun? If so, then you can also experience fever, chills, confusion, weakness, and fainting.
Also Read: Winter and Skin Care Routine
Vitiligo causes patches of pigmented skin. Patches of lighter, or white, the skin may develop on your skin along with the depigmentation of the hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes. It results in itchy or painful skin. Risk factors include having an autoimmune condition or having a relative with vitiligo.
Eczema is a skin disease that causes inflammation and irritation of the skin. There are several different types of eczema with different causes and treatments. If you have an overactive immune system, you may develop eczema. It is also caused by exposure to allergenic or irritating substances and environmental triggers.
When you observe dryness, scaliness, itching, oozing, crusting, or swelling on your legs and feet, this discoloration may be due to eczema. Your skin may become extremely sensitive along with brown, purple, or gray areas (on darker skin). Skin inflames develop red areas on your skin.
Psoriasis is an auto-inflammatory condition in which your body begins producing skin cells more rapidly than usual. This results in a buildup of cells on the outer protective layer of your skin. Scaly plaques may form anywhere on your body but especially on the knees, elbows, scalp, and lower back.
Factors like genetics and having an overactive immune system can play a role in the development of psoriasis.
8. Skin cancer
Skin cancer can occur anywhere on your body, including the legs developing a new pigmented or skin-colored bump. You may feel changes to an existing mole or birthmark, like the development of irregular edges or asymmetry, growing larger than a pencil eraser, bleeding or crusting, and changes in size, color, or shape. Skin cancer may also develop as a new mole or spot on your skin.
Diabetes is a common condition when blood sugar increases and become too much. Typically the signs of diabetes show up on your skin causing discoloration or changes to the legs, like yellow, reddish, or brown patches. Your skin becomes hard getting dryness, itchiness, and a shiny appearance. Brown spots or lines develop on the shins becoming large and painless blisters.
10. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation develops in darker skin after physical trauma, like a scratch, scrape, a cut from a sharp object, or friction. When you scratch or cut your leg, you may notice that your skin is darker in that area after the wound has healed.
11. Schamberg’s disease
If you have Schamberg’s disease, your capillaries may leak. You will notice areas of discoloration on your legs and feet.
The exact causes of Schamberg’s disease are unknown. But a few studies claim that alcohol consumption, genetics, and medications like aspirin, can cause the capillaries to leak blood into the skin.
Most of the causes of skin discoloration are temporary. Your condition will go away in time or with appropriate treatment. Other causes may need long-term treatment and management.
In some cases, the situation can signify a serious health issue. So, the best treatments are necessary to prevent any further complications.
All of the things that cause discoloration of your feet need medical attention. So you should never dismiss or ignore symptoms. Regardless of the major reasons for the change, when your feet’s skin turns dramatically darker, it may be more than just a cosmetic concern.
Visit a specialist who will give you better treatment options. You’ll have many choices from treating varicose veins to sclerotherapy.
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