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Can Skin Discoloration on Legs Be Caused by Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins have lots of symptoms. Your legs may become swollen, heavy, or develop the tell-tale dark, bulging veins. With so
many symptoms, you may be wondering if skin discoloration on legs can be caused by varicose veins.skin discoloration on legs 

In short, yes. Poor circulation can result in leg discoloration, as well as skin that’s dry, thick, and hard. Furthermore, it can develop into more serious conditions including open skin ulcers and bacterial infection in some patients if left untreated.

To answer your questions about skin discoloration and varicose veins, we’ll look at:

  • Why skin discoloration on legs occurs
  • Symptoms of leg discoloration
  • Treatment for leg discoloration
  • Who’s at risk for varicose veins

Skin discoloration can be one of the most uncomfortable symptoms of varicose veins. Not only is it uncomfortable physically, but it can impact your quality of life by making you less likely to take part in summer activities you once enjoyed. Seek treatment today and take the first step toward taking your life back!

Why does skin discoloration on legs occur?

Skin discoloration can have different causes, such as high blood pressure, heart conditions, kidney failure, or injury to the leg. However, leg discoloration due to varicose veins is also possible and also is among the most common causes. This condition goes by a few different names:

  • Venous stasis dermatitis
  • Venous eczema 
  • Varicose eczema
  • Stasis dermatitis

Like other varicose vein symptoms, leg discoloration may be the result of poor blood circulation in your lower leg. Inside your leg are veins that contain one-way valves that are supposed to fight gravity and keep blood flowing upward to your heart. When working properly, they support your blood circulation system to ensure everything is working properly. 

Unfortunately, these valves can weaken over time and eventually stop working. When this happens, blood can no longer defy gravity and is pulled back down inside the vein to collect within your lower leg. 

As this continues, the vein will eventually begin to swell and result in common symptoms such as:

  • Legs that feel fatigued
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
  • Aching legs
  • Swollen legs and ankles

Most people recognize varicose veins when they notice dark, ropey veins bulging up from under the skin, but that’s not always the case. Visible symptoms are often the tip of the iceberg and it’s quite possible that you may be suffering multiple “invisible” symptoms like aching, swollen legs or RLS.

Varicose veins are both a chronic and progressive condition. While their symptoms may subside after elevating your legs or wearing compression socks, the underlying cause doesn’t go away.

In fact, they usually begin to slowly grow worse without treatment. The earlier you seek treatment, the sooner you can avoid worsening symptoms and get back to the life you love.

Symptoms of Leg Discoloration

Leg discoloration is often preceded by other symptoms such as aching or swollen legs, or a combination of symptoms. The skin can also become:

  • Irritated
  • Dry
  • Itchy
  • Swollen
  • Crusty
  • Leaky

These symptoms will only worsen over time without treatment since varicose veins are chronic and progressive. The discoloration can begin to progress up your leg. It can also become cracked and shiny. You also run the risk of developing ulcers on your lower leg and the top of your foot.

 Eventually, a lack of treatment can result in skin that’s:

  • Deeply pigmented
  • Scaly
  • Hardened
  • Thick
  • Shrunken at the lower part of the leg
  • Extremely itchy

At this point, the cracks and overall poor state of your skin can leave you at risk of bacterial infection. Conditions like contact dermatitis can spread throughout your leg and even infect tissue deep within your body.  This is why seeking treatment early is so important. Failure to do so doesn’t just cause you to run the risk of developing more severe varicose vein symptoms. 

Treatment for Leg Discoloration

Multiple treatment options are available to help with varicose veins. Many you can do yourself, but some may require a physician if your varicose veins are at an advanced stage. Compression stockings and raising your legs above your heart can help reduce swelling. You can prop your legs on a pillow while you're sleeping for added benefits.

Emollients and moisturizers are helpful for dry, itchy skin. Make sure you buy one that is fragrance-free to avoid further irritation. Talk to your doctor if you’re not sure where to start. They’re sure to have suggestions based on your needs.

You may require more serious treatment if your skin discoloration due to varicose veins is in a progressed stage. Your doctor may prescribe you medications or antibiotics to reduce irritated skin or to fight off a bacterial infection.

The best option for treating varicose veins and preventing them from getting worse is to seek treatment immediately. Vein experts like Dr. Douglass are specially trained to do more than treat your symptoms. They treat the varicose vein itself to remove all discomfort and give you legs you can be proud of!

Who’s at risk for varicose veins?

It’s estimated that up to 40% of women and 25% of men have varicose veins. While anyone can develop varicose veins, some people are more likely than others to do so. The biggest risk factor is genetics. If one of your parents has varicose veins then you have a 40% chance of developing them yourself. Your risk jumps to 80% if both of your parents have them.

Gender also plays an important role in your chances of developing varicose veins. For instance, women are twice as likely to develop them than men. This is due to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The layer of muscle in the walls of your veins are already thin. Estrogen and progesterone weaken this layer and make them more susceptible to becoming varicose veins

Women are also at a higher risk due to pregnancy. During pregnancy, your veins experience an increased 40% of pressure which exacerbates the problem. Many women (around 30%) develop their first varicose vein symptoms during this time. Those who already have varicose vein symptoms will notice them becoming worse over time. 

Wrapping Up

Like all varicose vein symptoms, skin discoloration of the leg may result from malfunctioning one-way valves inside leg veins. Your skin may start out red and agitated, but can become worse over time. Many treatments are available for discolored legs, but the best option is treatment from a vein expert. While anyone can develop varicose veins, gender, pregnancy, and genetics play the biggest roles in your likelihood of developing it.


Contact us at East Tennessee Vein Clinic to get help for your varicose veins. We treat varicose veins differently by eliminating the entire network of failed veins, not just large visibly bulging veins. You can contact us online, or call us at 865.686.0507 or toll-free at 866.281.VEIN.

“Love Dr. Douglass and entire staff. My favorite part is that K-Love 88.3 is always playing. I have referred several friends!”

- S. W., Knoxville, TN