Leg and Foot Discoloration: Peripheral Artery Disease Could be The Cause
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a serious health condition that can cause a range of painful symptoms. The most common one is claudication, muscle pain or weakness that begins with physical activity, such as walking, and stops within minutes after resting. Another potential issue is skin discoloration on legs and feet.
PAD can impact your ability to walk, climb stairs, and perform daily activities. It also places you at risk for several dangerous health issues, including heart attack, stroke, and limb amputation.
If you experience leg discoloration or other PAD symptoms, we recommend consulting a vascular specialist. At USA Vascular Centers, we care about your vascular health and overall quality of life. Our leading experts can work with you to establish a personalized treatment plan.
Is Leg Discoloration Serious?
Leg discoloration can be a sign of a serious condition, such as peripheral artery disease or diabetes. If you smoke, are over age 50, have diabetes, or live with any other PAD risk factors, we recommend checking your legs often to spot signs of lower leg discoloration early. Other causes of skin discoloration on the legs are less serious, like eczema, sunburn, or a birthmark.
Finding out if your lower leg discoloration is PAD-related can help you get the treatment you need. PAD does not improve on its own. Without treatment to open the narrowed arteries, plaque will continue to stick to the artery walls, forming severe blockages that lead to tissue death (gangrene), amputation, and even death.
In addition, PAD is linked to an increased risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) and cerebrovascular disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. By beginning PAD treatment as soon as possible, you can start reducing your risk of vascular disease complications. Spotting and seeking treatment for discoloration of the skin on your legs is a step in the right direction.
How Does PAD Cause Leg Discoloration?
PAD is most often caused by atherosclerosis, a narrowing or blockage of the arteries due to plaque buildup. When arteries leading to the legs develop atherosclerosis, you may experience insufficient blood flow to your lower extremities.
Poor circulation due to PAD can lead to blood vessels that burst near the surface of the skin, arterial ulcers, and tissue damage. These issues can change the appearance of your skin and lead to leg discoloration.
Skin discoloration on lower extremities may appear as purple/blue legs. If you develop red, blue, or purple feet or legs, contact your doctor as soon as possible for a full evaluation. Skin discoloration can be a sign of serious vascular disease that can place you at risk for a number of dangerous health issues.
Keep in mind that there are many potential reasons for skin discoloration on the legs, including sunburn, birthmarks, eczema, cancer, and poor circulation. Your doctor can determine whether you are experiencing discoloration due to a vascular problem or something else.
What Does Leg Discoloration Due to Poor Circulation Look Like?
When skin discoloration on the legs is PAD-related, your legs might look reddish, purple, or blue. However, because all of us have different skin colors, tones, and textures, there may not be an obvious purple discoloration on the legs or blue discoloration of the skin on the legs when you have PAD. You know your own skin best. If you realize the color on one or both of your legs looks abnormal, reach out to one of our trusted vascular doctors. By the time you experience leg discoloration due to poor circulation, you’re likely on the way to moderate or advanced PAD. Our vascular doctors are highly skilled in quickly diagnosing PAD using ankle-brachial index (ABI) tests and angiograms.
An ABI test measures and compares the blood pressure in your arm and ankle. The resulting number gives your provider insight into whether or not you have a blockage. Angiograms are images taken of the vascular system using contrast dye, which can help our doctors pinpoint the precise location of a blockage.
How to Treat Leg and Lower Extremity Discoloration Caused by PAD
PAD treatment aims to restore blood flow to the lower extremities. After treatment, your leg discoloration and other symptoms can begin to improve as blood flows more freely to your lower limbs.
At USA Vascular Centers, PAD treatment has three primary goals:
- Alleviate symptoms
- Reduce risks of heart attack, stroke, and limb amputation
- Improve your quality of life
We believe in working individually with each of our patients to develop a personalized treatment plan. Once established, your treatment plan may include lifestyle modifications, medications, minimally invasive procedures, or a combination of these.
Your arteries may benefit from making certain lifestyle changes. Our experts generally recommend maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), eating a well-rounded diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and managing underlying health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol levels.
Our doctors may prescribe medications to promote better blood circulation throughout the body. If you are prescribed medications, be sure to take them exactly as instructed.
Minimally Invasive Procedures
If a severe blockage in your arteries is present, your vascular specialist may recommend treatment to restore blood flow to your legs. At USA Vascular Centers, we perform a range of minimally invasive outpatient treatments, including angioplasty, stent placement, and atherectomy. In each of these non-surgical procedures, one of our skilled interventional radiologists will guide a catheter into your vascular system and use different techniques to widen your arteries. You won’t need stitches, general anesthesia, or a hospital stay to receive these treatments. Instead, they’re performed in our state-of-the-art cath labs at our outpatient centers, which are certified by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). This certification reflects our commitment to excellence and allows us to provide care to patients who use Medicare and Medicaid.
When you are ready to explore treatment options for lower leg discoloration due to PAD, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at one of our accredited treatment centers.
Schedule a Consultation With USA Vascular Today
If discoloration on the feet or legs is caused by peripheral artery disease, our vascular specialists can help. Our PAD experts offer non-surgical treatment that can improve your symptoms and your quality of life.
We understand that a PAD diagnosis can be scary. The good news is that with treatment, you can live a full and productive life. To discover which treatment option is best for you, request a consultation today.