Swelling & Skin Discoloration of the Leg & Ankle: A Race Against Time

Written By
Leg swelling

Evan Harris, MD, DVIR, DABVLM, RPVI, is a Diplomate American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine and certified by the American Board of Radiology with qualifications in Interventional Radiology and Neuroradiology. He is the lead physician at the Glastonbury, CT, and Cromwell, CT locations of Center for Vein Restoration.

As a vein physician, nothing pains me more than to see a patient who has waited months, sometimes years, to seek the advice of a vein doctor about ankle and leg swelling and/or discoloration. The consequences of not properly treating the root cause of these symptoms, which is vein disease, are heartbreaking.

Often, the root cause of skin breakdown is vein disease

Vein disease (also known as chronic venous insufficiency, or CVI) happens when the tiny valves in the legs malfunction (known as “reflux”). Blood flow that is supposed to circulate from the legs to the heart now pools in the lower legs and feet.

The pooled blood in the tissues causes the skin to stain and darken. Oxygen in the legs becomes depleted. Stagnant blood and toxic fluid collect in the tissues surrounding the weakened veins as the pressure in the legs builds.

The tissues become inflamed, the skin around the ankles or shins thickens and becomes firm and hot to the touch. The legs develop a “woody” or “leathery” feel. Soon scaly, crusty sores that ooze and venous leg ulcers develop. Often this leads to open wounds that do not heal.

Skin conditions related to vein disease

A venous component is often a cause of acute skin conditions. These conditions include:

Atrophie Blanche

A particular type of angular scar on the lower leg or foot occurs after a skin injury when the blood supply is inadequate, and healing is delayed. Because the underlying cause, venous insufficiency, is chronic, this condition can develop into lipodermatosclerosis. This inflammation of the layer of fat under the skin can thicken and harden the skin and change skin color.

Venous Eczema

This chronic skin condition affects the lower legs and is common in people with varicose veins. Effective in-office minimally invasive procedures to control the disorder.

Venous Stasis

Pooled blood in the lower extremities due to abnormal vein function develops into red, irritated skin rash—and eventually an open wound.

Venous Stasis Dermatitis

Malfunctioning leg valves cause this fluid buildup in the lower legs due to chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). The result is inflammation, itchiness, scaling, hyperpigmentation, or ulceration.

The consequences of untreated vein disease

At later stages of vein disease, some people become immobile due to inflammation and pain. Because exercise is vital to moving the blood, inactivity creates a snowball effect that leads to greater deterioration. The discomfort and embarrassment of their skin condition, including visible oozing and wound odor, can make people feel socially unaccepted. Many are forced to stop working or attending functions that they love, such as family gatherings.

In the case of one patient who came to me late in her disease progression, she stopped attending church because the fluid that leaked from her sores onto the floor caused her shame.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

There are safe, simple, proven effective, minimally invasive in-office treatment options for chronic venous insufficiency such as; Laser Ablation, Radiofrequency Ablation and even revolutionary treatments like VenaSeal.

Most insurance companies cover these treatment options. And when caught early in the disease progression, treatment is far easier. Why then do so many people wait until the symptoms cause such devastating effects and become harder to correct?

Why do people wait to get their vein disease under control?

Sometimes patients make a tragic miscalculation and decide to take a wait-and-see approach to the worsening symptoms of their vein disease, such as visible, bulging varicose veins, leg heaviness, cramps, restless leg syndrome, and fatigue.

Often, people think that it is a normal part of aging. It is not.

Other times patients are directed by well-meaning healthcare professionals (who are not vein specialists) to treat the outwardly apparent symptoms (such as skin infections) with topical medications, antibiotics, or oral steroids.

These professionals will order tests to rule out heart failure, liver, and thyroid disease but rarely consider CVI. Often these healthcare providers don’t fully appreciate that the real cause of the debilitating symptoms lies deep within the venous system.

“What appears on the outside of the skin, where it is visible, is often just “the tip of the iceberg.” It cannot be remedied until the root cause—vein disease—is properly diagnosed and corrected.” – Dr. Evan Harris, CVR vein physician

Schedule an Appointment with an Experienced Leg Vein Expert

CVR is the nation’s leader in providing relief from varicose veins, ulcers, wounds, and other symptoms of venous insufficiency. Because CVR offers efficient, state-of-the-art in-office treatments that address the root cause of vein disorders, patients can get in, out, and on their way to healing and the life they love.

People suffering from skin changes and swelling of the lower legs and ankles do not need to choose between missing out on the things that matter to them and seeking the comfort they deserve.

Schedule a consultation today by calling 1-800-FIX-LEGS or visit centerforvein.com for more information.

Find CVR Near You