Lots of factors can contribute to skin discoloration: sunburn, wind exposure, poison ivy rashes, and irritation from harsh skin care products or detergents, for example. But sometimes, skin discoloration is a lot more serious — especially when it happens on your lower legs. That kind of skin discoloration could mean you have a circulation problem, and getting a prompt medical evaluation is essential for preventing it from getting worse.
As many as 60% of Americans have varicose veins and spider veins, two possible causes of skin discoloration. But millions more have much more serious vascular issues. At Desert West Vein & Surgery Center in El Paso, Texas, we use advanced diagnostics to determine the cause of skin discoloration, so it can be treated quickly and effectively.
Healthy circulation helps your skin maintain a consistent coloration. When blood flow is interrupted or impeded in some way, it can result in skin darkening, redness, and other symptoms, like pain, swelling, or changes in the way your skin feels. Any of these symptoms can be a sign of a serious underlying blood vessel or circulation problem that needs prompt medical evaluation and treatment.
Chronic venous insufficiency is a surprisingly common circulation problem, with about 150,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States. If your veins are unhealthy, it can be a lot more difficult for them to return blood from your feet to your heart. As blood flow slows down, extra pressure is exerted on your blood vessels, and sometimes, a little blood may leak out. This blood contains iron, and over time, the leakage can cause stains just below your skin’s surface. Often, staining is accompanied by swelling, pain, itching, and irritation.
In some people, chronic venous insufficiency causes another condition, called venous stasis dermatitis. When blood backs up and pools under the skin, the pressure and irritation it causes sometimes changes the texture of the skin. Over time, skin can develop a thick, rough, leathery texture. As the skin becomes more fragile, it’s also more prone to developing ulcers, deep sores that can increase the risk of infection and even amputation.
DVT occurs when a clot forms inside one of the deeper veins of your leg. If a clot breaks away from the vein, it can travel to your lungs where it may cause a serious medical event called a pulmonary embolism. Some pulmonary embolisms can be treated medically, while others can be fatal.
DVT can cause redness in your leg, along with pain, heaviness, and warmth. Some DVTs cause few or no symptoms, which is why having regular vascular screenings is important. The CDC estimates nearly a million people may have DVT, and as many as 100,000 people die from DVT each year in the US.
Though a DVT forms in the deeper blood vessels, a superficial venous thrombosis forms in veins located just below your skin. These clots are easier to spot, and they may be associated with redness, swelling, and varicose vein formation.
About 6.5 million adults in the US have peripheral artery disease, according to the CDC, and all of them are at risk of serious complications, including amputation. People with PAD are also more likely to have coronary artery disease, strokes, or heart attacks. PAD can cause mild reddening of your legs near where the artery is blocked, along with symptoms like pain and heaviness in your legs. Often, PAD goes undiagnosed because it’s mistaken for the aches and pains of “old age.”
Varicose veins and spider veins are among the most common causes of skin discoloration in the legs, but they aren’t the only causes. Any abnormality in the color or texture of your skin is an indication that something’s wrong. Dr. Atur Kasha uses state-of-the-art techniques to diagnose and treat circulation problems to relieve your symptoms and improve your overall vascular health.
If you’ve noticed any unusual symptoms or if you’d like to learn about your risk factors for circulation problems, call Desert West Vein & Surgery Center at 915-260-4602, or schedule an appointment with Dr. Kasha online.