Skin color changes from vein disease

As we get older, our skin undergoes some normal changes in softness and elasticity. However, this should not be confused with skin changes due to vein disease or chronic venous insufficiency. Skin discoloration due to venous insufficiency includes darkening or discoloration of the lower leg (particularly around the shins and ankles) caused by the breakdown of blood hemoglobin. Iron within your blood contains hemosiderin that leaves a red, brown, or purplish pigmentation on the skin with untreated vein disease.

What is venous insufficiency?

This occurs due to damaged veins that become ineffective at transporting blood in your legs back to the heart against gravity. This is known as chronic venous insufficiency, and it affects nearly one out of every four individuals to some degree. With time, poor venous circulation in the legs leads to increased pooling of blood in the legs and, ultimately, inflammatory changes in the skin. Early on, patients may notice that skin in the affected area feels tight, itchy, or irritated. This is referred to as Stasis Dermatitis (inflammatory skin condition due to stagnant blood in the legs).

Untreated vein disease can progress and the skin will undergo further changes with thickening or thinning, discoloration, and even break, causing skin ulcerations that can be difficult to heal.

If you are concerned about the possibility of vein disease, find your nearest vein specialist today for an appointment.

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What Should I Be Aware Of?

Does your occupation involve you having to stand or sit for long periods? Do you have a family history of varicose veins? Do you notice heavy aching or restless legs at night? Do you also have spider veins or varicose veins that are getting more noticeable? The same condition that causes varicose and spider veins also causes skin discoloration on legs–chronic venous insufficiency.

These are the early signs of vein disease and can be easily confirmed by a qualified vein specialist. A thorough history and physical examination will determine the likelihood of vein disease, and an ultrasound can be utilized to determine the severity of the condition. These tests can all be performed on your initial visit with a dedicated vein treatment center.

Ideally, an effective treatment plan can be developed before more advanced symptoms and signs of vein disease develop, including skin discoloration, leg swelling, thrombosis (blood clot), or skin ulceration.


What Treatments Are Available for Skin Discoloration and Venous Insufficiency?

In the early stages of skin eczema due to vein disease (stasis dermatitis), it is important to take some protective measures to maintain healthy skin. This includes:

  • Compression therapy is essential to minimize blood pooling and promote circulation in our legs.  It also reduces swelling which can further increase pressure on the skin
  • Exercise improves muscle tone and circulation in our legs, reducing symptoms of vein disease.  Consider daily walks or runs for at least 15-20 minutes (and make sure to wear comfortable footwear)
  • Avoid excessive or abrasive soap as this can dry your skin and lead to increased itching and skin breakdown. Instead, use a moisturizing soap when washing, bathing, and showering
  • It is important to keep your skin clean and well-moisturized
  • After washing, gently pat the skin dry and avoid excessive rubbing that can irritate or even inflame your skin
  • Apply generous amounts of moisturizer to the skin when it is dried
  • Make sure to apply moisturizer after each time your skin gets wet. This includes showering, bathing, and swimming
  • Be certain also to apply sunscreen lotion to exposed areas during the summertime

Medical Treatments for Vein Disease

Symptoms that progress despite conservative measures or signs of late disease (skin ulceration, skin discoloration, and leg swelling) need immediate attention from a vascular specialist. Left untreated, venous insufficiency can lead to more serious health issues, including non-healing ulcers and blood clots.

Fortunately, skin discoloration on the legs due to vein disease is treated with the same office-based, minimally-invasive procedures used for varicose veins. The treatment requires no downtime or anesthesia and is usually covered by health insurance. If you have symptoms, it is best to contact a vein clinic for evaluation and treatment.

Get treated and see the difference

A vein doctor is the best choice for treating skin discoloration on the legs due to vein disease (stasis dermatitis). Vein specialists at the Princeton Vascular Center are board-certified experts in diagnosing and treating all forms of vein disease using the most advanced techniques in vein treatment.

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