Foot and leg discoloration

Written by carrie glossmanz
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Foot and leg discoloration
The shade of discolouration depends upon the cause. (legs image by sasha from

Foot and leg discolouration can be caused by a variety of ailments. These include skin infections, peripheral vascular disease, Schamberg's Disease and diabetes. The seriousness of the foot and leg discolouration ranges based on the cause.

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Skin Infections

Infections of the skin commonly cause foot and leg discolouration, and one of the most common is cellulitis. Staph and strep strains of bacteria cause cellulitis when bacteria enter broken skin through cuts, scrapes, bites or other similar injury. The infected skin turns into blotchy patches of red or darker shades resembling a bruise. Cellulitis is treated with antibiotics, but the discolouration may linger after the treatment. The discolouration can be treated with topical bleaching agents.

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) encompasses a variety of separate conditions affecting the veins and/or arteries in the extremities. The legs and feet are often affected. Discolouration comes in the form of shiny, brittle skin, as well as reddish-blue areas. Bruising and the accompanying discolouration is common with PVD, as is gangrene. Risk factors for developing PVD include obesity, family history and smoking. Treatment involves identifying any underlying cause and prescribing prescriptions for better blood flow.

Schamberg's Disease

Patients with Schamberg's Disease have a chronic condition in which blood-vessel walls leak red blood cells into the skin.The cells' presence causes the development of orange and brown irregular splotches that frequently expand over time. The exact cause of Schamberg's Disease is unknown, and there is no cure, but any secondary itching can be treated with cortisone cream.


Diabetics can experience a number of skin discolouration in the legs and feet. These discolourations are symptoms of greater problems and indicate impeded blood flow or insulin rejection. Discolouration in these instances is usually a dark brown or tan colour. Gangrene is a more serious discolouration issue common to diabetics, and is caused by the death of tissue. The colour progression of gangrene begins red, proceeds to brown and ends up black. In addition to discolouration, the affected areas will be numb and cool to the touch. Treatment of gangrene depends on the stage it is discovered; amputation is usually only necessary for the final stages.


With the exception of Schamberg's Disease, these conditions can be fatal if left untreated. Sudden discolouration in the extremities is a symptom that should be taken seriously. Seek medical supervision immediately if discolouration occurs.

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