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Leg Discoloration Due to Poor Circulation: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Leg Discoloration Due to Poor Circulation

Jun 12, 2024 | Blog

Proper circulation delivers oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs throughout the body, while poor circulation can result in inadequate blood flow, particularly to the extremities, leading to various health issues, including leg discoloration. These changes in skin color are often early indicators of poor circulation and can be associated with several conditions, such as varicose veins, diabetes, peripheral artery disease (PAD), lymphedema, chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), etc.

If you are experiencing leg discoloration or other symptoms of poor circulation, it is essential to seek medical advice promptly. Our Advanced Cardiac and Vascular Center combines over 30 years of experience and offers comprehensive peripheral procedures to address vascular issues effectively. Schedule a free consultation now to learn more.

In this blog, we will give detailed explanations of each condition causing poor circulation. Not only will we talk about these conditions, but we will also address their symptoms and treatment options.

Circulation and Its Role in Leg Health

Circulation and Its Role in Leg Health

Circulation refers to the movement of blood through the heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries, delivering oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs while removing waste products. This process is crucial for maintaining overall health, as it supports cellular function, temperature regulation, and immune response.

Blood circulates through the legs via a network of arteries and veins. Oxygen-rich blood is pumped from the heart through the arteries to the legs and feet. Once the oxygen is delivered, veins carry the oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart. Valves in the veins ensure the blood flows in the correct direction. However, when these valves or the veins themselves are compromised, circulation can be impaired, leading to various issues.

Common symptoms of poor circulation are leg discoloration, leg swelling, varicose veins, spider veins, itchy skin, leg pain, cold feet and toes, numbness or tingling, etc. More serious symptoms related to poor leg circulation are venous stasis dermatitis, DVT, and leg ulcers. These are conditions that occur when complications arise due to poor circulation.

What is Hemosiderin Staining?

Hemosiderin staining is a type of skin discoloration resulting from the accumulation of hemosiderin, a pigment derived from hemoglobin in red blood cells. This condition occurs when red blood cells leak out of blood vessels into surrounding tissues and break down, releasing iron, which then forms hemosiderin. 

It often appears as brownish or yellowish patches on the skin, particularly on the lower legs. Hemosiderin staining is commonly associated with chronic venous insufficiency, where poor blood flow leads to blood pooling and leakage from veins.

Is My Leg Discoloration Caused By a Vascular Problem?

Leg discoloration could either be a serious problem or an arbitrary one. Your leg discoloration issue is an arbitrary one if it comes with no significant pain, swelling, or ulcers. It could also be arbitrary if it is minor varicose veins or spider veins without other complications. 

If you notice leg discoloration along with other symptoms like swelling, pain, or visible veins, it may be due to a serious vascular problem. Therefore, you need to seek professional medical attention immediately for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

4 Vascular Causes of Leg Discoloration Due to Poor Circulation

4 Vascular Causes of Leg Discoloration Due to Poor Circulation

Some common vascular conditions that cause leg discoloration due to poor circulation are:

  1. Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  2. Venous stasis
  3. Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)
  4. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

1. Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a condition where the arteries that supply blood to the lower legs and feet become narrowed or blocked due to atherosclerosis, reducing blood flow. This insufficient blood flow can lead to leg discoloration, particularly a pale or bluish tint. The affected areas may also feel cold and numb.

Typically, you would undergo a peripheral vascular disease evaluation so that your doctor can determine exactly what is wrong before recommending any treatments for PAD. Some treatments for PAD include lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, medications, and minimally invasive procedures like angioplasty and stent placement to restore blood flow. If the case is serious, more advanced treatments like endovenous ablation and surgical bypass may be recommended. 

2. Venous Stasis

Venous stasis occurs when blood pools in the veins of the lower legs due to inadequate blood flow back to the heart. This pooling can cause increased pressure in the veins, leading to fluid leakage and leg discoloration, typically a reddish-brown or dark purple hue.

One way to treat venous stasis is by keeping your legs elevated. Wearing compression stockings also helps to improve blood flow and reduce swelling. In severe cases, surgical procedures like vein stripping may be used to improve vein function. 

3. Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI)

Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI) is a long-term vascular disease where the veins in the legs cannot efficiently return blood to the heart. This leads to blood pooling and increased pressure in the veins, causing leg discoloration, swelling, and venous stasis dermatitis. CVI can also lead to venous insufficiency leg ulcers and skin changes.

Lifestyle changes like weight management, compression therapy, and surgical procedures like endovenous ablation, sclerotherapy, or vein stripping are treatments for CVI.

4. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a vein disease where a blood clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the lower legs. This can block blood flow, leading to swelling, pain, and leg discoloration. The skin may appear red, blue, or purple.

Some treatment options for DVT include medications like blood thinners to prevent clot growth and new clots from forming. In some cases, procedures like thrombectomy or the placement of a filter in the vena cava may be necessary.

What Are The Best Treatment Options for Leg Discoloration?

What Are The Best Treatment Options for Leg Discoloration?

The best treatment options for leg discoloration are either radiofrequency ablation or sclerotherapy. Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses heat to close off varicose veins and improve blood flow, reducing leg discoloration caused by poor circulation. This treatment is effective for conditions like chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins.

On the other hand, sclerotherapy involves injecting a solution into the affected veins, causing them to collapse and be reabsorbed by the body. This treatment is commonly used for spider veins and smaller varicose veins, improving skin discoloration and overall appearance.

Non-Vascular Causes of Leg Discoloration

Non-Vascular Causes of Leg Discoloration

Some non-vascular causes of leg discoloration are diabetes, obesity, kidney damage, age, and blood clots. Individuals with these underlying conditions are more likely to suffer from poor circulation which can lead to leg discoloration.

Diabetes can lead to poor circulation and skin changes due to high blood sugar levels. Over time, this can cause leg discoloration, particularly in the lower legs and feet. Managing blood sugar levels helps in amputation prevention, and assists in managing other symptoms. The second most prominent cause is obesity as it increases the risk of poor circulation, leading to leg discoloration. Excess weight can put additional pressure on veins and arteries, exacerbating conditions like chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins.

Another big cause of leg discoloration is kidney damage as it leads to fluid retention and swelling in the legs, contributing to skin discoloration. Understandably, as people age, their risk of vascular issues increases, leading to poor circulation and leg discoloration. Regular check-ups and preventive measures can help mitigate these effects. Ultimately, blood clots can block blood flow in the veins, causing swelling and discoloration. 

Recognizing Symptoms of Poor Circulation

One common symptom of poor circulation is varicose veins. These are swollen and twisted veins that lie just under the skin. Other leg discoloration symptoms could include changes in skin tone, swelling in the legs and feet, etc.

For example, we once had a patient with chronic venous insufficiency experiencing leg discoloration and swelling. During our free consultation, our patient mentioned cold legs and feet as one of the symptoms they were experiencing. Our treatment plan for this patient included compression stockings and lifestyle changes which included a comprehensive dietary plan. In no time, we began to see improved changes over six months. 

Diagnosis of Circulatory Problems

Diagnosis of Circulatory Problems

Typically, diagnosis of circulatory problems starts with an initial physical examination by a healthcare provider. Then, you could undergo some tests such as an ankle-brachial index (ABI) test to measure the ratio of blood pressure in the ankle to the arm. This helps in detecting conditions like PAD.

You can also undergo vascular ultrasounds to visualize blood flows and detect blockages, or even blood tests to assess risk factors like cholesterol and blood sugar levels. A professional evaluation is crucial to accurately diagnose and treat circulatory problems, preventing complications and improving overall health.

Treatment Options for Improving Leg Circulation

Treatment Options for Improving Leg Circulation

The treatment options for improving leg circulation include medical treatments, lifestyle changes, and home remedies. For medical treatments, blood thinners and cholesterol-lowering drugs may be used to manage underlying conditions. In severe cases, surgical procedures like angioplasty can be used to open blocked arteries and improve blood flow. 

Furthermore, engaging in lifestyle changes like regular running helps to enhance circulation. It also helps to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight is also helpful. Importantly, you should consult with a medical professional to get the best treatment options unique to your condition.

Preventive Measures and Long-Term Care

To prevent leg discoloration and improve circulation, you must go for regular check-ups. This way, you get to monitor your vascular health and detect issues early. The use of compression stockings also helps to support blood flow in the legs, and elevating your legs reduces swelling and improves circulation. 

It is important to note that keeping track of symptoms and following your doctor’s advice is crucial for managing conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and vascular diseases.

Do you have Leg Discoloration from Poor Circulation?

Circulation is vital for delivering oxygen and nutrients to your body’s tissues and organs. Therefore, poor circulation, particularly in the legs, can lead to various health problems, including leg discoloration. Recognizing the signs of poor circulation early is crucial for preventing more severe conditions like chronic venous insufficiency, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and peripheral artery disease (PAD).

If you notice symptoms of poor circulation, such as persistent leg discoloration, swelling, or pain, seek early diagnosis through diagnostic procedures. Consulting a vascular doctor can help identify the underlying causes and determine the best course of treatment to restore healthy blood flow and alleviate symptoms.

At our Center for Advanced Cardiac and Vascular Interventions in LA, we have vascular specialists who will carry out expert evaluations and give you curated advanced treatment options to prevent leg discoloration. Contact us today to get started. 


If you were told you need an amputation, get a second opinion! We are board certified consultants in endovascular interventions committed to improving the quality of your life and the lives of those you love!

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