Ankle discoloration develops for many reasons, ranging from bruising caused by a sprained ankle to red skin resulting from an infection (cellulitis). Skin discoloration around your ankle may also signal a potentially serious vein condition called venous stasis dermatitis. Peter Ford, MD, FACS, RPVI, and the team at Vascular Solutions in Charlotte, North Carolina, have the expertise to distinguish venous stasis skin discoloration from other causes and develop a customized treatment that heals the underlying problem. Don’t wait to have ankle discoloration examined, call the office or request an appointment online today.
Venous stasis dermatitis develops when venous reflux goes untreated. Venous reflux occurs when one-way valves in your leg veins don’t function properly.
When the valves weaken, blood flows backward or refluxes in the vein instead of going up the leg to return to your heart. The refluxing blood accumulates in the vein, causing two problems: varicose veins and high pressure in the lower leg veins. The increased pressure leads to venous stasis dermatitis.
Elevated pressure in the leg veins forces fluid and proteins to leak into the surrounding tissues. The excess fluid causes leg swelling, and the leaked proteins trigger an inflammatory response. Inflammation of the skin results in dry, itchy, irritated skin, which is typically worse around the ankle. This condition is known as venous stasis dermatitis.
Venous stasis dermatitis is often associated with skin discoloration around the ankle and lower leg. This skin discoloration is typically reddish-brown in color, but in severe cases can tend towards dark brown. The discoloration is caused by hemosiderin, an iron-containing pigment that gets released as cells and proteins are processed by the body. Sometimes the skin color changes can be subtle, but over time ankle discoloration can become darker and can progress to affect large portions of the leg. Early treatment of underlying vein problems prevents progressive skin discoloration.
The problems that cause venous stasis dermatitis also increase the likelihood of developing a leg wound. Excess fluid and leg swelling make it difficult for the skin to heal and repair. The medical name for a leg wound that develops secondary to vein problems is a venous ulcer (sometimes referred to as a “venous stasis ulcer”). Venous ulcers usually first appear as a shallow wound and are typically located just above the ankle bone.
Venous ulcers are potentially serious because they can be difficult to heal. About half of all venous ulcers remain unhealed for nine months or longer. The longer a venous ulcer goes without healing, the more likely you are to develop a skin or bone infection.
After performing an evaluation and diagnostic imaging, Vascular Solutions develops a treatment plan based on the underlying condition, the severity of the ankle discoloration, and the presence of leg wounds. The goals of treatment are to alleviate symptoms (when present), reduce progressive skin discoloration, and prevent the development of venous ulcers.
Most people with ankle discoloration will benefit from intermittent leg elevation and some form of external leg compression garment (usually compression stockings). These actions reduce pressure in the leg veins and also reduce leg swelling.
Most people with ankle discoloration secondary to vein problems are a candidate for at least one of the following procedures:
These procedures work by different mechanisms, but each procedure eliminates or reduces pressure in the problematic leg veins, which prevents worsening skin discoloration.
Don’t wait to get help for ankle discoloration. Call Vascular Solutions or request an appointment online today.