Vein disease is a medical condition that affects millions of people around the world. While it can affect any part of the body, it is most commonly seen in the lower legs and ankles. One symptom of vein disease is discoloration, which can range from mild to severe. Let’s take a look at what causes this skin discoloration and how it can be treated.
What Causes Vein Disease?
Vein disease occurs when blood vessels become weak or damaged, leading to poor circulation and reduced oxygen flow. This is typically caused by age-related wear and tear, but there are other factors that can contribute as well, such as obesity or an inactive lifestyle. Over time, these weakened veins can cause various symptoms such as swelling, pain, fatigue, cramping, and discoloration.
Vein Disease Causes Ankle Discoloration
Vein disease has been identified as the primary reason for ankle discoloration. This condition, known as venous insufficiency, is caused by damaged or broken veins in the legs which prevent adequate blood flow and cause pressure to build up.
Discolored Ankles Are A Common Symptom of Venous Insufficiency
If left untreated it can result in a skin disorder called venous stasis dermatitis characterized by redness, dryness, itchiness, and irritation of areas surrounding fragile veins that are leaking blood into tissues underneath the surface of your skin. Additionally, hemosiderin – an iron-rich pigment created from hemoglobin – accumulates within these affected regions accumulating a purple or brown hue upon extended exposure. This is sometimes called hemosiderin staining.
Hemosiderin Buildup Causes the Discoloration
Poor vein circulation can lead to a buildup of hemosiderin, detectable as dark pigmentation in the ankles and lower legs. This is due to an accumulation of iron within body tissues that cannot be returned to the immune system for removal – known medically as stasis dermatitis.
For veins in the legs to do this effectively they must be able to resist gravity and other internal factors of pressure. When flow is not efficient enough however hemosiderin deposits can accumulate under the skin which is unable to be cleared away by our immune system leading to a dark discoloration known as stasis dermatitis at the ankle level.
Varicose Veins and Discolored Ankles
Faulty valve function in veins can have serious consequences. When working properly, valves allow blood to flow from the feet back toward the heart – however, when something goes wrong with this vital system, the deoxygenated blood starts to get pooled-up and may cause thickened and twisted superficial varicose veins throughout various areas of the body.
Varicose veins can cause several problems including ankle discoloration and hemosiderin staining. While ankle discoloration is more prominent when the veins are damaged, hemosiderin staining is caused by leakage of severe leaky veins which allows iron molecules to settle in the skin tissue and stain it.
A Reduction In Blood Flow
These marks often appear as brown pinpoint spots around the ankles and can be further aggravated with increased inflammatory responses leading to swelling, redness, and pain in the legs. Chronic Venous Insufficiency CVI is often mistaken for age spots, eczema, or even a bruise but it is important to know that it stems from a problem with leg veins and should be treated accordingly to avoid deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots.
Ankle Discoloration Diagnosis
To identify the origin of ankle discoloration, one of our vein expert doctors will utilize an in-depth physical examination as well as sophisticated ultrasound technology. This advanced scan allows for deeper insights into the blood flow and vessel changes within your legs and ankles offering greater diagnostic capabilities to better assess any medical intervention that may be necessary.
We will carefully assess your lower limbs, looking for any evidence of skin discoloration, puffiness, temperature differences, or discomfort to gain more insight and determine the best course of treatment for the underlying vein disease.
Management of Symptoms and Treatment for Ankle Discoloration
Based on the results of your examination and diagnosis, we will suggest the best treatment path and options for your ankle discoloration.
How Compression Therapy Works
Compression therapy works by squeezing your legs with medical stockings. This squeezing encourages the blood to flow past any faulty valves and back up to your heart, instead of pooling in your lower extremities and causing damage. The increased pressure from the stockings also helps reduce inflammation and swelling in the area. Furthermore, it can help relieve pain caused by poor blood circulation or chronic conditions like diabetes.
Compression stockings come in different sizes and levels of pressure, so you must consult a doctor before purchasing them. You should also undergo regular checkups to ensure that the stockings fit properly and are giving you adequate support. It’s also important that you follow all instructions for wearing them correctly; otherwise, compression therapy won’t be as effective as it could be.
Benefits of Compression Therapy
In addition to improving ankle discoloration, there are several other benefits associated with compression therapy. For example, it can reduce fatigue and help prevent venous ulcers (also known as venous stasis ulcers) from developing on your skin due to poor circulation. Compression therapy can also help those who suffer from varicose veins by improving circulation and reducing swelling in their legs. Finally, compression stockings can provide relief for those who experience pain due to chronic conditions such as diabetes or arthritis by providing extra support and preventing further deterioration of their joints or tissues.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Healthy lifestyle changes can also improve your blood circulation.
Regular exercise not only strengthens your heart but also helps improve blood circulation throughout your body. Exercise pumps oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and organs, which helps maintain healthy blood vessels and reduces the risk of venous insufficiency. It’s recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week for adults. Moderate exercises include brisk walking, swimming, or biking while vigorous exercises include jogging or running.
Eat Healthy Foods
Eating healthy foods is one of the best ways to keep your body functioning optimally. Eating a healthy diet of plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains helps ensure that you get all the essential nutrients you need for proper circulation. These nutrient-rich foods are also high in fiber which helps lower cholesterol levels in the body and improves overall cardiovascular health. Avoiding processed foods is also important because they often contain added sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats which can lead to poor circulation if consumed in excess.
Staying hydrated is yet another way to improve your blood circulation naturally. Water helps flush out toxins from the body as well as dilute substances like cholesterol that can clog arteries and disrupt normal blood flow in the body. It’s recommended to drink at least 8 glasses of water each day to stay properly hydrated throughout the day. If you don’t like plain water, try adding some fresh fruit slices or herbs like mint leaves for flavor!
Overall moving your body, elevating your legs to improve reduced blood flow, maintaining a healthy weight and fueling your day with healthy foods can drastically improve vascular health.
Minimally Invasive Treatments for Ankle Discoloration
If non-invasive methods don’t help with your discolored ankles, we might recommend one of these minimally invasive treatment options. Generally, we remove the varicose veins as they are the cause of the discoloration.
Endovenous ablation provides a safe, effective solution to varicose vein issues that cause leg pain and swelling. Using radiofrequency or laser energy technology, the abnormal veins in your legs are sealed off so blood can flow through healthy pathways – resulting in improved circulation and alleviation of any discomfort. In addition to relieving pain, this procedure also helps reduce skin ulcers making it a great choice to treat ankle discoloration.
During ambulatory phlebectomy, your vascular specialist will make several small punctures (about 1-2mm) in the skin near the damaged veins. Through these punctures, they will insert a small hook-like instrument called a phlebectomy hook which they will use to pull out the damaged vein. The entire process generally takes about one hour but may take longer depending on how many veins are being removed.
Ultrasound-guided Foam Sclerotherapy
Ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy is a tried and tested approach for the successful treatment of venous reflux, varicose veins, and spider veins. By injecting an advanced foam solution into the affected blood vessels – as guided by ultrasound imaging – this procedure can push away unwanted blood flow from these areas, shutting down any further circulation to restore even skin tone over time.
Discoloration of the surrounding tissues is one of the more frequently seen symptoms of vein disease and the causes range from genetics to lifestyle factors. Fortunately, there are treatments available for vein disease and discoloration that can help improve the look of the skin and reduce further health risks associated with the condition.
Depending on the severity of discoloration and other symptoms of vein disease, certain treatments may be more suitable than others. Be sure to consult a medical professional as soon as possible so they can diagnose your individual case accurately and suggest the best course of action for your poor blood flow.
Remember that early diagnosis and treatment can greatly reduce your risk of complications related to vein disease. If you or a loved on is suffering from black, blue, purple, or red discoloration at the ankles, call us today.
Mrs. Paige Bourbeau, ARNP is a distinguished graduate of the University of South Florida's Masters of Science in Nursing program from 2012. As one of the top achievers in her class, she was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honors Society and recognized by the American College of Phlebology for her expertise in treating venous insufficiency.