Skin discoloration can happen for any number of reasons from rashes to allergies to eczema. However, if you have a family history of vein complications and notice skin discoloration around your feet, ankles, or legs, the cause may be more serious. You may have hemosiderin staining. Hemosiderin staining is caused by dysfunctional vein valves that force red blood cells out of the vein. These dead red blood cells release iron that gets stored in the tissue and causes discoloration.
A few years ago, a co-worker of mine said her brother had of a brownish-reddish color around his ankles. Because he was young and healthy, he hadn’t considered that the discoloration might be a vein problem. It occurred to me that many people may not know much about hemosiderin staining, or that it can be a precursor to chronic wounds later in life.
How is hemosiderin staining related to vein issues?
Venous insufficiency is the clinical term to describe poor blood flow from the feet and legs to the heart. The condition often causes varicose veins, swelling, and venous ulcers. When veins become damaged and don’t allow the blood to successfully flow back to the heart, the blood can pool in the lower extremities. This can cause a progressive loss of skin integrity known as chronic dermal disruption-type ulceration. Similar to a stage 1 decubitus ulcer, in the early stages of chronic dermal disruption, the skin is not broken, but without treatment, it often progresses to a chronic, non-healing open sore.
How do I identify early signs of venous insufficiency?
The clinicians I work with often say they see venous insufficiency in their patients who also suffer from obesity and diabetes. We refer to this as the “triangle diagnosis”.
In the first stages of venous insufficiency, the following may be present:
- Swelling (edema) is often present in the ankles and feet.
- Hemosiderin staining (also known as stasis dermatitis) may follow. It usually starts in the ankle area and over time, it may encompass the entire shin area circumferentially. This is one example of chronic dermal disruption-type ulceration.
- As the disease progresses, you may also see other changes such as fibrosis or a “tree trunk” look to the legs. This is another example of chronic dermal disruption-type ulceration that can occur in the later stages of venous insufficiency.
How is venous insufficiency treated?
There are many ways to treat or manage venous insufficiency, but you should talk to your doctor about what is right for you. Here are a few ways to treat venous insufficiency:
- compression stockings
- regular exercise
- elevating legs when resting
- regularly clean and moisturize your skin
- avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
- pneumatic compression
I have spent many years specializing in pneumatic compression for patients who chronic venous insufficiency, non-healing wounds, and other circulatory conditions. And I have seen many of my patients have remarkable outcomes as a result of using their NormaTec PCD regularly. The PCD massages their limbs, which decongests engorged tissues and improves microcirculation in the extremities; this resolves symptoms that could otherwise progress to an open wound. If an open wound exists, improving circulation by using the NormaTec PCD will speed healing. Pneumatic compression is especially effective when combined with proper skin hygiene, exercise, and a healthy diet.
To learn more about how the NormaTec Pneumatic Compression Device might be the right option for you, click the button below to get some helpful information that you can share with your doctor.
Your NormaTec nurse,
Susan Rajotte, RN
Please note: The content contained in this post is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your physician.