If you battle vein disease, you’ve probably noticed what looks like bruises on your lower legs. However, you’ve also noticed that these bruises don’t go away. Those spots may not be bruises at all — they may be hemosiderin staining.

Hemosiderin staining isn’t a disease like varicose veins, but it can be a symptom of it. Let’s explore why hemosiderin staining occurs, how it links to vein disease and how and if you can get rid of it.

What Does Hemosiderin Staining Look Like?

On the surface, hemosiderin staining looks like a patch of darkly colored skin or a bruise. It can be yellow, black, brown or slightly reddish. It’s typically found between the ankle and knee. If you have a naturally dark complexion, it can be difficult to see.

People with hemosiderin staining are likely to have dry skin, so the affected area may be flaky and itchy, as well.

Over time, it may either get darker or go away completely. This, however, depends on what causes your particular case of hemosiderin staining.

What Causes Hemosiderin Staining?

Hemosiderin is a protein in blood that stores iron. When blood leaks from capillaries, it collects under the skin and the red blood cells break down. Because of the iron in hemosiderin, it leaves behind a darkly colored residue visible through the skin. This is a hemosiderin stain.

These capillary blood leaks can be caused by a number of things:

  • Injuries
  • Vein treatments
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Lipodermatosclerosis
  • Ulcers
  • Circulatory and vein conditions such as varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency

Basically, anything that affects the blood’s circulation or damages veins and capillaries can result in hemosiderin staining.

How Does Hemosiderin Staining Connect to Vein Disease?

According to medical professionals, hemosiderin staining is one of the most common symptoms of chronic veinous insufficiency and varicose veins.

In cases of chronic veinous insufficiency, blood gets trapped in the legs, particularly around the ankles. When the blood stays there, it leeches iron into the skin and causes skin discoloration.

If you’re suffering from varicose veins, your veins are enlarged and twisted. While it can happen anywhere in the body, it most commonly occurs in the lower legs. Because your veins are tangled and likely have damaged valves, blood pools in them and breaks down causing bruise-like discoloration.

Does Hemosiderin Staining Go Away on Its Own?

If the discoloration is a result of an injury or vein treatment, it may go away on its own after a few weeks. If it’s the result of vein disease, it may be permanent.

For people that haven’t suffered an injury, it’s important to see a vein specialist to get to the root cause of hemosiderin staining. Other side effects of discoloration as a result of vein disease can include:

  • Swelling around the feet and ankles
  • Pain when walking
  • A tingling sensation
  • Enlarged veins
  • Burning, throbbing and muscle cramps in the area

These are all also symptoms of other vein diseases. Even if you’ve only experienced discoloration, see a doctor. Early intervention may mean better results.

How Do I Treat Hemosiderin Staining?

Some instances of hemosiderin staining may respond well to topical lotions and ointments. While you may need a prescription, these solutions can largely be administered at home. In other cases, laser therapy may be able to make the area lighter.

However, if the staining is the result of vein disease, it’s important to treat the cause and not just the symptoms. While surgery may be an option, there are a number of other less-invasive treatments available. Let’s examine three of the most innovative minimally-invasive options offered at the Vein Institute of Pinellas.

Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT)

After administering an anesthetic to numb the area, a doctor uses a tiny optical fiber to reach the affected vein. This fiber emits a laser that seals off the vein. Over time, the body reroutes blood flow from the vein and absorbs it into the body.

This is a great option for people that can’t afford a long recovery period. Many patients can go about their normal day afterwards.

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)

This treatment is similar to EVLT, but uses radio waves instead of lasers. Guided by ultrasound imaging, a doctor cauterizes the affected vein with radio waves. This creates scar tissue that blocks off the vein until it is absorbed by the body.

Like EVLT, many patients can go about their normal routine afterwards. However, doctors may advise you to stay active to encourage blood flow.


During this vein treatment, a professional injects microfoam into the diseased vein. Once again, the goal is to cease blood flow into the vein so it can be absorbed by the body.

This procedure is typically used to treat varicose veins and ulcers in the leg. It usually takes less than an hour and patients may return to their normal routine almost immediately.

Will These Treatments Make My Hemosiderin Staining Go Away?

In many cases, these treatments don’t completely get rid of hemosiderin staining. However, if you catch and seek treatment for a vein disease early enough, the darkened area may lighten over time.

Remember — hemosiderin staining can be indicative of a serious health problem. Don’t focus on getting rid of a blemish. Instead, focus on making yourself healthier.

Where Can I Find Treatment?

Because hemosiderin staining can be indicative of a complex vein disease or circulatory issue, finding treatment quickly is vital. At the Vein Institute of Pinellas, we offer minimally-invasive vein treatments like the ones listed above and more medically-complex surgical solutions. The VIP team has decades of vein treatment experience and always have extended office hours for your convenience.

For vein disease treatment in and around Tampa Bay, look no further than us. If hemosiderin staining and other symptoms have you worried about your health, contact us today.