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Skin Changes Associated with Blood Flow

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Skin Changes Associated with Blood Flow

If the flow of blood to the lower legs and feet changes, the color and texture of the skin may also change. Changes in blood flow can also increase the risk of certain types of skin conditions . In fact, many skin changes of the feet and lower legs can be the first signs of developing blood flow disorder. Below are a few of the more common conditions associated with changes in blood flow.

    Purpura (also called cherry angioma or senile angioma) is a rash of brownish red, bright, red, or purple spots that may gradually change to brown over time. The small spots are actually sites of tiny, ruptured blood vessels. They can be caused by an allergic reaction, anemia, or a systemic condition such as vascular disease, but most often are simply a normal part of aging.

    Venous statsis dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin that can occur with varicose veins or swelling in the lower legs or feet. The circulation of blood through affected areas is slowed, causing itching and redness, and brown patches. Shiny, thin, weakened skin may also result. This thin and weakened skin is vulnerable to tearing and heals slowly. In severe case, the skin can break down, forming weeping open sores called venous statis ulcers. Treatments for venous statis dermatitis include wearing compression stockings, periodically elevating the legs, exercising, and treating sores that may be present.

    Hemosiderin deposits are painless brown patches of skin that form on the lower legs. They can occur when the legs swell, constricting and backing up the flow of blood. The backed-up blood flow deposits iron in the skin, causing the brown spots. Treatment is directed at controlling the swelling. The discolored skin, however, is harmless and often remains for years. 

    Raynaud's disease/phenomenon is a vascular condition in which small blood vessels in the fingers and toes spasm, causing changes in temperature and color changes to the skin. The disease can also cause numbness and pain. In the most severe cases, Rayanaud's disease/phenomenon can lead to gangrene.
    The vascular spasms can be set off by stress or weather changes and can cause the skin to appear white, blue, or red, depending on what stage it is in. (Those who have experienced prolonged exposure to cold or frostbite are vulnerable to a similar condition called chilblain, or perino.)
    Raynaud's disease/phenomenon should be diagnosed by a physician. Keeping the skin warm in the primary treatment. Wearing warm socks and shoes and avoiding cold exposure to the feet often keeps symptoms in control. Prescription medications that increase blodd flow may also be used to treat severe cases.


peripheral vascular disease (also known as peripheral artery disease, or PAD), thyroid disorders, and long-term use of oral steroids can cause the skin to become thin and fragile. Affected skin often has a texture like rice paper and is easily injured. Even a slight bump can severely bruise or tear the skin. Bruises and the smallest tears can take weeks to heal. Those with fragile skin have to be extremely careful walking barefoot or breaking in new shoes and should visually inspect their feet and lower legs every day. Cuts or skin tears usually heal slowly and should be covered and checked regularly to ensure that they do not become infected.


Reference: Great Feet For Life: Paul Langer, DPM

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