The Possible Causes of Feet Discoloration


Skin on the feet or ankles can discolor for any number of reasons, ranging from staining from wet clothes or boots to serious medical conditions. Yet, if the discoloration isn’t immediately explainable by simple environmental factors, then it’s in your best interest to seek medical attention.

Here are some things that you should know about some of the more serious problems that could be causing your feet discoloration.

Venous Insufficiency

Venous insufficiency, also known as chronic venous insufficiency or chronic venous stasis, is a problem with the flow of blood from the veins of the legs back to the heart. This occurs when the valves in the veins of the leg don’t work properly, causing fluid pools to form, which can lead to other problems including varicose veins.

Venous insufficiency can be caused by blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, or high blood pressure inside the leg veins. You are more likely to have venous insufficiency if you:

  • Are older
  • Are female
  • Are overweight
  • Don’t get enough exercise and tend to lead a sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoke
  • Have a family history of varicose veins

Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling, often in the ankles
  • Varicose veins
  • Itching
  • Cramping
  • General weakness
  • Skin sores (ulcers)
  • Aching or a feeling of heaviness
  • Changes in skin color/feet discoloration
  • Thickening of the skin on your legs or ankles

In order to treat venous insufficiency, your doctor may ask you to:

  • Wear compression stockings
  • Get more exercise (especially walking)
  • Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • Keep your legs elevated when lying down

In more severe cases, you may have to undergo surgery to correct venous insufficiency. Your doctor may suggest one of the following types of surgery:

  • Surgical repair of veins or valves
  • Removing (stripping) the damaged vein
  • Minimally invasive endoscopic surgery—the surgeon inserts a thin tube with a camera on it to help see and tie off varicose veins
  • Vein bypass—a healthy vein is transplanted from somewhere else in your body (this procedure is generally used when the upper thigh is affected and only for very severe cases after nothing else has worked)
  • Laser surgery—uses lasers to either fade or close the damaged vein(s) with strong surges of light in a small, specific place. It involves no surgical cuts.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a bacterial infection transmitted by a tick. Without prompt treatment, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can cause serious damage to internal organs, such as your kidneys and heart.

Although many people become ill within the first week after infection, signs and symptoms may not appear for up to 14 days. Symptoms can include:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness and insomnia
  • Rash—the red, non-itchy rash typically appears a few days after the initial signs and symptoms begin. It first appears on your wrists and ankles, and can spread in both directions.

People who develop Rocky Mountain spotted fever are much more likely to avoid complications if treated within five days of developing symptoms.

Ankle Sprain

An ankle sprain is an injury to the tough bands of tissue (ligaments) that surround and connect the bones of the leg to the foot. The injury typically occurs when you accidentally twist or turn your ankle in an awkward way. This can stretch or tear the ligaments that hold your ankle bones and joints together.

Symptoms of an ankle sprain can include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Inability to put weight on the affected ankle
  • Skin discoloration – primarily ankle and foot discoloration
  • Stiffness

Treating a sprained ankle is important to promote recovery and to prevent further discomfort. If your sprain is mild, you should be able to treat it at home by:

  • Using elastic bandages to wrap your ankle
  • Wearing a brace to support your ankle
  • Using crutches
  • Elevating your foot with pillows while resting or sleeping to help reduce swelling
  • Taking ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to manage swelling and pain
  • Getting plenty of rest and not putting weight on your ankle
  • Applying ice every 20-30 minutes, three to four times per day

Surgery for ankle sprains is rare, but it may be performed when the damage to the ligaments is severe or when the injury doesn’t improve with non-surgical treatment. Surgical options include:

  • Arthroscopy—your doctor will look inside the joint to see if there are any loose fragments of bone or cartilage
  • Reconstruction—you doctor will repair the torn ligament with stitches. They may also use other ligaments or tendons around the foot or ankle to repair the damaged ligaments.

Proper Diagnosis

If you’re experiencing any feet discoloration, and the cause is not immediately known to you, you should seek out medical attention. A proper diagnosis can go a long way to helping you treat and quickly recover from whatever is causing your foot discoloration.

If you have any questions or concerns about feet discoloration, book an appointment with Dr. Vikki and Dr. Connie, so that they can help you get the right answers and treatment.