Why Are My Feet Purple? -- Causes
and Cures
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Last updated April 15, 2017, originally published April 11, 2017

By Susan M. Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Doctors,
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of
our Editorial Board

An increasing number of Americans are reporting a strange
symptom to their doctors --- purple feet.   When it comes
to our health, some of us often adopt a strategy of staying
as far away from bad news as humanly possible. What you
don't know can't hurt you, right? But in the case of skin
discoloration on your feet, ignoring the problem is about
the worst possible strategy. For, as you will see, having
purple feet
, technically called "cyanosis" can be a sign of
many medical conditions, some  serious, and even

Leg Edema Is a Common Cause of Purple Feet

Your circulatory system works much like a freight train. The
"cargo" on this freight train is blood. When your circulatory
system works perfectly, blood is pumped from your heart
through your arteries to the outer reaches of your body,
such as your hands and feet. You can think of this part of
the journey as the outgoing train.  It supplies nourishing,
oxygen-rich blood to your organs along the way. The last
stop on this train are your feet and hands, the outer limbs.  
Having done its job of delivering blood to your organs and
the outer limbs, your circulatory system then directs the
blood back toward the heart, making the long return trip
along the tracks we know as veins.

When this train system malfunctions, the return trip is
blocked. The blockage could be caused by a number of
things --- leaky veins, valve dysfunction, scar tissue and
any number of things. As a result of this blockage, blood
stays in the outer reaches. The most common place for this
blood to pool are your legs and feet because gravity  drives
it downward toward your feet.  

When blood pools, it often discolors your skin. Your feet
will appear dark red, brown or purple.

A Tumor in Your Pelvic Area Can Lead to Purple Feet

A tumor in your pelvic area can block the flow of blood
from your legs and feet back to your heart. As a result of
the blockage, blood backs up in your legs and feet, causing
purple or red skin in some cases.

Pulmonary Hypertension and Sleep Apnea ---Overlooked
Causes of Purple Feet

A common but often overlooked cause of leg edema is
pulmonary hypertension, according to a 2006 study from
University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. The study,
led by Dr. John Ely observed that sleep apnea is often a
related cause. Sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing
as you sleep. People with sleep apnea can stop breathing
dozens, even hundreds of times during the night.

Treating pulmonary high blood pressure caused by sleep
apnea involves treating the apnea itself, usually with a
CPAP mask.  

Obesity can also contribute to sleep apnea. "As the person
gains weight, especially in the trunk and neck area,the risk
of sleep-disordered breathing increases due to
compromised respiratory function," according to sleep
specialists at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center, quoted
by the
Sleep Foundation.  

If you are overweight and have mild sleep apnea and you
gain just 10% more body weight, your risk for severe
obstructive sleep apnea rises 6 times higher, according to a
2010 study led by Dr. Abel Romero-Coral of the Mayo Clinic
College of Medicine.

Here is some good news. If you lose 10% of your body
weight, you decrease the severity of osbtructive sleep
apnea by 20%.

This reduction in weight also indirectly helps reduce the
incidence of leg edema and the related purple discoloration.

Hip Replacement Complications Can Lead to Swelling
Discoloration a Year Later

Hip replacement surgery can sometimes cause scar tissue
which can press against arteries in your pelvic area. This
resulting cut-off of blood flow can cause an edema and skin
discoloration on your legs and feet.

In 2013, scientist from Japan's Kobe University Graduate
School of Medicine reported the case of a patient who had
had large-diameter metal-on-metal total hip arthroplasty. A
year and 2 months after the surgery, the patient developed
edema in one leg. Though the doctors at first suspected a
deep vein thrombosis, a closer look revealed "a mass
compressed the left iliac artery and vein". After removing
the mass, the swelling subsided quickly and completely.

Vasculitis Can Cause Purple Discoloration of Your Legs and

Vasculitis refers to inflammation of your blood vessels.
Many conditions can cuase vasculitis.  One condition is
Henoch-Schönlein purpura, also known as anaphylactoid
purpura, or purpura rheumatica.

With this condition, the capillaries in your skin and often
your kidneys become inflammed.  This in turn causes purple
rash called "purpura" on your buttocks, legs and feet.

Henoch-Schönlein purpura often has other symptoms
including joint pain (arthritis) and abdominal pain.

Stasis Dermatitis Produces a Reddish Brown or Purple Rash

Stasis dermatitis occurs when you have poor circulation.
This causes an itching and discoloration and can lead to
skin ulcers, according to the American Academy of

Although you can treat the dermatitis with creams to get
temporary relief, you have to treat the underlying
circulatory problem to reverse the dermatitis permanently.

As with other circulatory problems, there are a number of
possible causes, including high cholesterol which causes
clogged arteries, to pelvic tumors and obesity.

Diabetes Can Cause Poor Circulation and Purple Feet

There is a strong connection between diabates and poor
circulation. Diabetes thickens your blood, making it harder
to travel through your arteries and veins. One of the
consequences of diabetes' effect on your circulation is that
your feet may not receive the oxygen-rich blood they need
to remain healthy.  The feet can develop purple
discoloration and ulcers.

Type 2 diabetes can be controlled in some cases with
lifestyle changes, including maintaining an ideal body
weight, following a
low-glycemic diet, and staying active.

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