Changes in the color of the skin and texture are one of the complications that arise with varicose veins. Skin discoloration from varicose veins happens when they are typically at an advanced stage of venous insufficiency, not functioning correctly and causing blood to pool in areas of the leg, causing a discoloration of the skin. These changes happen due to damage to the venous wall. Prolonged inflammation of the veins causes changes in the skin leading to discoloration.

Why do varicose veins cause skin discoloration?

An understanding of venous insufficiency begins with understanding why varicose veins cause skin discoloration. Damage to the vein valves occurs for many reasons, including genetics, prolonged periods of standing, weight gain, and pregnancy. These damaged valves cause pressure to rise within the veins located in the legs. It’s a situation described by the term “venous hypertension.” Venous hypertension leads to engorgement of the veins and bulging, which eventually causes inflammation. The eventual inflammation starts to make changes to the skin over time, eventually leading to discoloration of the skin close to the area.

What causes hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is often a reason for patience looking for a vein expert in Chicago and can cause emotional distress once it begins since it’s something visible and not easily hidden. Often, the ankles may merge and extend up towards the calf. Hyperpigmentation is an issue in later stages of vein disease, representing stage 4 in the classification of vein disease.

Elevated pressure within the veins caused by the progression of valve damage leads to red blood cells being squeezed out of the leg veins and broken down beneath the surface of the kin. This breakdown leads to hemosiderin deposition under the skin, leading to dark red and purplish areas. It is a progressive issue that continues until a variety treats the underlying venous insufficiency of methods.

Is skin discoloration from vein disease permanent?

Hyperpigmentation is usually permanent but can improve somewhat once the vein disease is corrected. It is important to get seen for treatment as soon as possible once you notice any skin discoloration.

Different types of skin discoloration

Skin discoloration from varicose veins comes in a few different types. They can present alone or in combination with other types depending on the genetics and severity of the underlying vein disease. Darker reddish and purplish are most common and known as hyperpigmentation. Some patients develop venous stasis dermatitis, which looks like itchy small red spots along the anterior calf. Some have brownish areas that come in looking spotted. These areas correspond to regions of fatty deposits residing inside of the connective tissues. If there is adjacent scarring, it’s known as a situation called lipodermatosclerosis. Some may see areas of white scarring known as atrophie blanche.

All of these findings share the one underlying factor of inflammation. Inflammation in the tissues caused by venous insufficiency can cause the body and skin to respond differently, depending on the individual. If left untreated, most will see a slow progression of the disease and worsening skin discoloration over time.

Does skin discoloration cause symptoms?

Skin discoloration does not directly cause symptoms, but it and the symptoms share the common cause of inflammation. In the beginning, patients may find a spider or varicose veins but otherwise, be asymptomatic. As things remain untreated and unchanged, other factors play a role more quickly. Pregnancy, weight gain, and long periods of standing with no rest are all things that can compound this issue.

Symptoms start as itching in the areas of spider and varicose veins. The itchiness is also related to the beginning of inflammation in the area. Some patients scratch the itchy area until they break the skin, causing bleeding. As the areas heal, slight darkening begins, representing the beginnings of skin discoloration. As skin discoloration and inflammation progress, so do the symptoms of vein disease, usually being the point when patients seek help for their symptoms.

If discoloration is left untreated still, it can progress to the point of venous ulcer. The longer the venous ulcer goes untreated, the more likely it will be that the patient will suffer with it for life.

Treatment of skin discoloration from varicose veins

In most cases, skin discoloration caused by varicose veins is permanent. The goal of our treatments is always to halt the veinous insufficiency causing the discoloration.

If you have started to see changes in your skin due to varicose veins, seek treatment from a vein specialist sooner than later. You will likely need diagnostics like ultrasound with a vascular specialist to determine the exact underlying causes.

Treatment of the vein disease has improved over time and is now performed, in most cases, on an out-patient basis and requires no downtime or recovery in most cases. Patients can return to their normal activities on the same day. Treatment examples include radiofrequency ablation, endovenous laser ablation, and sclerotherapy.

Treatment for vein disease in Chicago

Visit Chicago Vein Institute if you consider a minimally invasive vein treatment option in the Chicago area. We have experience treating vein disease and have many happy patients who we have been able to help over the years we have been in business. Your vein disease is not something you usually have to deal with for life. Get in touch with us for a private consultation to discuss your vein treatment options today.


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Chicago Vein Institute is a practice solely dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of vein diseases. The experts at CVI perform the latest and most effective treatments for painful varicose veins, spider veins, and other vein-related disorders. CVI offers minimally invasive treatment options, including Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA), Ambulatory Phlebectomy, Ultrasound-Guided Sclerotherapy, Surface Sclerotherapy, Elastic Compression Stockings and wound care for venous ulcers, performing more than 11,000 vein-related procedures annually. Same-Day appointments and multi-lingual team members standing by to assist.