Skin discoloration of the lower legs, ankles and feet may appear if there is increased pressure in the leg veins. The pressure may be the result of venous stasis. This is a condition in which there is poor blood flow from the legs back to the heart. It usually occurs when varicose veins have formed and the blood starts to pool in the veins and becomes stagnant. As it accumulates, small and medium sized veins may spring a tiny leak and some blood passes into the tissue. Once in the tissue, the blood breaks up and iron is released that stains the skin, causing it to turn brown.
In very severe cases, the subcutaneous fat and skin become weak and break down, creating venous stasis ulcerations. Blisters may form and a clear fluid may leak from the ulcers. The people who are the most at risk of developing venous stasis are people 50 years and older, people with heart disease and those who are obese or sit for long periods of time every day. It is also more common in women than in men. Other causes are:
- A blood clot in the leg vein
- Numerous pregnancies
- An injury to the lower legs
- A sedentary lifestyle with little exercise
If you believe you are developing varicose veins or venous stasis, you will be able to ask questions and may get a diagnosis during a consultation with our specialist. Some of the symptoms include itching and ulcers. There may also be symptoms of venous insufficiency, such as calf pain and tenderness, ankle swelling and a heaviness in your legs that gets better when you sit down.
When the skin discoloration is just beginning to develop, it may itch. You should not scratch the area because it would tear the skin and cause the fluid to leak. If you do not get treatment, the skin may begin to thicken and become hard and dark brown. At this stage, ulcers may form on the inside of your ankle.
To avoid skin discoloration, you may follow the same recommendations for avoiding venous insufficiency. These include:
- Propping your feet while sitting as often as possible throughout the day
- Avoiding standing or sitting for long periods
- Wearing compression stockings
Our specialist may also recommend certain skin ointments or creams to apply to your discolored skin. These may be topical antibiotics, hydrating creams or numbing creams. When the cause of the skin discoloration is found, the treatment will also help control it. If it is not treated, chronic leg ulcers may form, the bone may become infected, cellulitis may form on the skin and there may be permanent scarring.
The best prevention is an early diagnosis. While venous insufficiency may not be serious in the beginning, it can develop into several serious medical problems. At Premier Vein Institute, our specialist can diagnose your condition and recommend your best treatment options so you can have smooth, clear legs again. We have offices in Tampa, Riverview and Lakeland. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.