Most of our patients seek evaluation at Vein Specialists of Tampa for painful, throbbing and bulging veins that protrude from under the skin. These are usually referred to as varicose veins. Often, leg heaviness and even ankle swelling accompany their complaints.
Changes in lower leg skin color and texture, especially around the ankles are an even more advanced sign of significant problems related to the circulation of veins. Many patients are not aware that these distinctive skin changes signify a more serious failure of their veins to efficiently move blood back to the heart. These skin changes often progress to sores or ulcers in the location of the ankle area that can be very difficult to heal.
When vein issues are significant the skin on the inside of the ankle typically turns dark brown, begins to flake and can even bleed with only a slight scratch. The reason for these changes, which can take years to develop, is that older red blood cells (which normally live 120 days in the body) are not being transported via the leg veins to the liver and spleen for recycling. Accordingly, some of the red blood cells actually decay and die right at the ankle level, spilling open their pigments and chemicals into the nearby tissues. This material contains iron, an essential component of the red blood cell. Iron is brown in color and the iron finds its way to the skin and stains it brown…usually in a permanent way.
Our goal at Vein Specialist of Tampa is to evaluate patients with all types of vein issues but to see patients before more extensive skin changes of the lower leg develop. If they do develop, we try to prescribe a treatment plan that at least stabilizes these skin changes so they do not progress.
Darkening of the skin at the ankle region and congestion of the tissues with swelling are all the result of failure of the veins to completely transport blood out of the leg, back to the heart. We do have treatment solutions to prevent this problem from getting worse and at the same time relieving symptoms. Occasionally, the recommended treatments involve using a laser catheter with local anesthetic to close a deeper vein that is malfunctioning and therefore causing the skin changes and varicose veins to appear. This treatment is called endovenous laser ablation or EVLT.