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8 Possible Causes of Feet Discoloration

feet discoloration
An example of severe circulation problems or Peripheral Vascular Disease, a major cause of feet discoloration

Having color changes to your feet can be concerning, especially if these changes are getting worse or seem to stay the same. Your feet can tell a lot about the current state of your body and can be a window into other health problems that are going on, even if those health problems haven't been diagnosed yet. If you are dealing with feet discoloration, this is my guide to reasons why this could be happening.

1. Injury/Trauma

feet discoloration
An example of a bruise, a cause of feet discoloration

An injury or trauma is probably the most common cause of feet discoloration. Whenever an injury is big enough, usually there is bruising of the skin. A bruise is when the skin or soft tissues are injured and bleed internally. This causes color change and foot discoloration. Bruising can range in colors from very dark, deep red, to purple, yellow, or even green. If you have injured your foot, and within a couple of hours to a day notice foot discoloration, this is likely bruising, or the medical term is eechymosis.

2. Cellulitis/Infection

feet discoloration
An example of cellulitis or soft tissue infection, a cause of feet discoloration

Infection, specifically soft tissue infection known as cellulitis is another cause of foot discoloration. Cellulitis will cause your skin to look bright red in fair skin and purple in darker skin.

Cellulitis is a serious infection and can be painful. Cellulitis in someone who has diabetes, chronic kidney disease, poor circulation, or a combination of the three can lead to hospitalization, surgery, and even amputation. It is important that if you notice any color changes to your feet, and belong in these groups, to see a foot doctor immediately.

3. Poor circulation

Poor circulation is another very common cause of feet discoloration.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is when the arteries, and vessels responsible for bringing blood from your heart to everywhere else in your body are diseases, hardened, or outright blocked. PAD causes feet and legs to look bright red in fair skin to bronzy, and even purple in darker skin.

Chronic swelling or edema in the legs is caused by diseased veins. Veins are blood vessels responsible for taking blood from everywhere in your body, and returning it to your heart and lungs. Disease of the veins is known as Peripheral Vascular Disease and this can cause the skin to look a deep red or burgundy in fair skin to purple or near black in dark skin.

At times with PVD, the skin will be purple to blue in color.

4. Gangrene

feet discoloration

Gangrene happens when soft tissue dies. This can happen because of poor blood flow in the case of diabetics, those with vascular disease, or kidney disease to name a few high-risk groups., or those taking certain life-saving medications that lowers blood flow to arms and legs in order to send this much-needed blood to vital organs.

Gangrene can also happen after an injury where the skin is broken and infection sets in.

Gangrene is grey to black in color. There can be an odor associated with gangrene because again the tissue is dying.

There is no cure for gangrene, the affected limb has to be amputated or removed surgically.

5. Raynauds

feet discoloration
Another cause of feet discoloration is Raynauds disease

Raynauds Disease or Raynauds Phenomenon can be a cause of feet discoloration. With this disease, the small vessels or arteries in the feet or hands construct or clamp down when exposed to cold. Because of this, the feet or hands won't get blood flow and the skin turns very light, if not downright white in fair skin. Once the person places their body in a warmer environment, the blood vessels open up again, and the skin will turn bright red, and then return to its normal color.

Raynauds can be a very painful process, and impact your quality of life.

Raynaud is more common in women and colder climates.

Raynauds can be found by itself, or be associated with autoimmune disease.

6. Lupus

feet discoloration
The purple ribbon, a symbol of Lupus awareness

One of the autoimmune diseases associated with Raynauds disease is Lupus.

Lupus also causes vasculitis which is inflammation of the blood vessels which will cause the skin to look blotchy, red, or purple.

Lupus can also cause poor circulation to the legs and feet, which can cause feet discoloration, rashes, and even ulcers.

7. Blood clots

The tiny blood vessels in your feet can actually experience blood clots, specifically the arteries of your feet.

Patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, commonly known as A-fib are at a higher risk for developing tiny blood clots in the feet known as shower emboli. This causes the feet to look bright red, and to be very painful, similar to how cellulitis looks, but without infection.

8. Frostbite

feet discoloration
Fourth degree frostbite with gangrene

Frostbite is the final cause of my list of reasons for feet discoloration. Frostbite is caused by cold exposure, and the skin being injured, or dying because of being in the cold for too long. There are different degrees to frostbite. They are:

  • First-degree frostbite (Frostnip): In first-degree frostbite, the skin is red but may turn paler or even white. There is pain, but no permanent damage done.

  • Second-degree frostbite: In second-degree frostbite, skin turns red and pale. Blisters can form. There is usually numbness with this level of frostbite.

  • Third-degree frostbite: At this level of frostbite, skin becomes white, blue, or gray. Blisters are also seen. Permanent tissue damage is likely.

  • Fourth-degree frostbite: Fourth-degree frostbite is gangrene. The tissue is completely dead.

Key Takeaways

Skin color changes to your feet or feet discoloration have many different causes. From infection to poor blood flow, chronic health conditions, or tissue death, the causes are many. If you are dealing with feet discoloration that is not getting better, see your local podiatrist or foot doctor immediately.

Schedule Your Appointment at Direct Podiatry Arizona Today

Are you in need of a foot doctor and are in the Phoenix area? My name is Dr. Tarr, and I am the owner of Direct Podiatry Arizona in Tempe. To view my available appointment times, click here.

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