Leg Discoloration - Causes, symptoms & treatment options

Person touching legs

What if a certain discolored patch appears on your skin overnight? You’d certainly notice it, and probably get worried about it too. Discoloration and pigmentation are quite common issues. While not always serious conditions by themselves, they may also be an indicator of another underlying problem. Hence, it is always recommended to get it checked and subsequently treated. Skin discoloration on legs is one such problem.

Discoloration on skin refers to light or dark-colored patches. This may happen due to various reasons such as inflammation, infection, hormonal and metabolic issues, or an injury. It may also occur due to an imbalance in melanin levels. For those who don’t know, melanin is a pigment under the skin that provides color to the skin. It also provides protection from the harmful effects of the sun. Skin discoloration can develop when there is an overproduction or underproduction of melanin in a certain or whole area. 

In this guide-cum-article, we will talk about the condition, its causes, treatment and preventive measures,, and a lot more.

What are the causes and symptoms of skin discoloration on legs?

To understand leg discoloration, it is important to know what causes it. You may be surprised to learn about some of the causative factors that come from parts of your daily lives. 

The symptoms of skin discoloration on legs depends on its cause. Different causes have their own symptoms and signs of telling you that there is something wrong with your body. All you have to do is read the signs right and consult a specialist who will help you treat the condition.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes and their symptoms.

#1 Sunburn

Sunburn on legs

Let’s start with a very common cause. All of us step out in the sun. Agreed that we are nowadays locked down because of the pandemic, but as the lockdowns are lifting all across the world, we are slowly going back to our routines, involving going out and about in daylight. If you have sensitive and light toned skin that is prone to burn and you do not apply a sunscreen, sunburn may give you skin discoloration on legs.

Symptoms of leg discoloration due to sunburn

  • A visible burn on the skin in the form of reddish patches

  • Dry and peeling skin

  • Swelling and pain

  • Burning sensation over the patches

  • Blisters in case of a more severe burn

  • These patches may heal leaving behind dark hyperpigmented patches


#2 Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation

Dark patches may occur on the skin due to altered healing of any inflammatory, infective or traumatic lesion on the skin. Darker skin types are more prone to this pigmentation. 

Symptoms of leg discoloration due to Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation

  • Dark patches on skin on the same site where an inflammation or injury occurred earlier

  • No itching/burning/pain


#3 Lichen Planus, Psoriasis, Eczema

These are inflammatory conditions of the skin where pinkish, reddish or violaceous skin lesions appear and stay for a long time. These need to be evaluated and treated by a specialist as they are chronic and may occur along with other metabolic conditions. 

Symptoms of leg discoloration due to lichen planus, psoriasis, eczema

  • Itching

  • Pinkish, reddish or violaceous skin patches

  • Scaling or peeling of skin

  • Dry skin

  • Mucosal patches


#4 Vitiligo

Another very common cause behind leg discoloration is vitiligo. It causes white-colored or depigmented patches on the skin. Vitiligo happens due to the destruction of that part of the body’s immune system which takes care of melanin production. There are certain specific symptoms to look out for if you are planning to diagnose leg discoloration that happens because of vitiligo. Again, we will discuss that in detail in the next section.

Symptoms of leg discoloration due to vitiligo

  • Skin discoloration on legs or anywhere else in the case of vitiligo usually happens in some small areas and then merges together

  • White colored or depigmented patches are seen

  • The discoloration may also occur in segments, on one side of the body

  • The body and scalp hair may also turn white


#5 Age spots

These are multiple small sized light to white, or dark colored or reddish cherry-like skin spots that occur due to the ageing process of the skin. These are harmless but may be of cosmetic concern.

Symptoms of leg discoloration due to age spots

  • Red spots

  • White spots

  • Brownish spots


#6 Radiation therapy

If you are someone who is undergoing radiation therapy for other conditions like malignancy, it may cause skin discoloration. It starts off with mild itching, dryness, redness and even peeling of the skin. It may also lead to hair loss.. Look out for uneven patches and get those diagnosed, especially if they crop up after you have started undergoing radiation therapy.

Symptoms of leg discoloration due to radiation therapy

  • Itching

  • Burning

  • Redness

  • Dryness

  • Peeling of the skin

  • Blisters

  • Hyperpigmentation in the healing phase

  • Hair loss 


#7 Bruising

Your skin bleeds outwardly when hurt. But it may also bleed internally. Note that this is a case for a medical emergency and there is no makeshift or aid-like treatment that may help you fix it at home. You notice something like this and that’s when you should seek immediate medical intervention, no matter where you are. Internal skin bleeding happens when a blood vessel is injured under the skin. This may either happen because of any long-standing or persistent illness, or even due to a blunt injury that may not affect the skin externally.

  • Bluish, greenish or reddish discoloration of the skin

  • Swelling and pain in the affected area


#9 Melanoma

Melanoma is a dreaded term, a form of skin cancer which mostly affects people with lighter skin tones. It mostly happens when there is a change in the color and shape of an already existing mole on the body. If you have it on your leg, it may very well be the reason for skin discoloration on legs in your case.

Symptoms of leg discoloration due to melanoma

Allergies: Sometimes, your immune system gets confused and instead of fighting the bad guys it starts repelling the healthy cells. This allows foreign bodies to attack the system, often leading to rashes discoloration on the skin. These allergies may be acquired either by touch or by consumption.

Infections: This too happens when the immune system has been compromised. Treat cuts and wounds diligently and do not ignore them. Once the bacteria or fungus manifests, it may infect it, leading to skin lesions and discoloration.

Birthmarks: Moles are the mildest forms and usually are not a cause for concern, unless you start noticing a drastic change in size. Children, at the time of birth, may experience a bluish or reddish skin discoloration on legs or anywhere else, which fades with time, but may sometimes grow in size and cause problems. It is always better to let the doctor monitor the discoloration, if it develops into something sinister. Strawberry naevus and port-wine stains are other marks on legs to watch out for any kind of alarming change. 

Skin discoloration on legs due to large mole

Hormones: Yes, your hormones too might be responsible for the skin discoloration on legs. Hormonal assays need to be done to diagnose these causes. 

All in all, if you have any such skin conditions and experience any such symptoms on your leg, along with a discoloration, it should be a cause for concern. This is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. So, what should you do? Firstly, consult with a dermatologist who can diagnose the condition by taking a look at your discoloration.



How to diagnose skin discoloration on legs?

If you notice any discoloration that doesn’t seem to be going away after a couple of days, or any new mole that looks suspicious, that is the time when you should connect with a doctor. If you are not comfortable taking a walk-in appointment, you can connect virtually with our doctors via our app SkyMD where you get an expert opinion on your device, anytime, anywhere.

The first thing that your doctor would do is examine the discoloration patch and then ask a few questions like:

  • The pace of growth; quick or slow

  • When you started noticing the discoloration

  • Level of discomfort, if any

  • If you are experiencing any other symptoms apart from just skin color change

Ensure that you tell the doctor about your medical and drug history and also any genetic issues you may have. You should also tell the doctor about any allergies you may have so that the prescribed drugs do not clash with your condition.

Once the doctor has all the information, you will be recommended the relevant course of treatment

What are the treatment options for leg discoloration?

 Doctor applying ointment on skin discoloration on legs

Skin discoloration on legs or anywhere else in the body can be treated once the diagnosis is accurate. Mostly, if the condition is mild, doctors recommend certain drugs or creams that you can use at home. 

If the condition is severe, oral medication may be started and certain procedural and surgical treatments may also be recommended.

Apart from these, for lighter forms of skin discoloration on legs or otherwise can be treated with home remedies as well. However, be sure to check with your doctor first. Do not self medicate without any professional help.

  • Vitamin A or E creams that are available over the counter

  • Castor oil application on the area twice a day

  • Consumption of fruits and foods rich in vitamin C

  • Tea made out of milk or red clover also helps

  • Lemon juice application on the affected area

These are some of the most common and recommended treatment for leg discoloration and other skin discolorations.

What to expect after the treatment?

This is mostly in the case of surgical intervention in the form of chemical peels (done professionally) or laser therapy.

Mostly, the doctor would advise to wrap the area with medical dressing to hasten the healing process. In case the area feels itchy as it heals, the doctor may also prescribe an antihistamine pill or cream, depending on what you are comfortable with.

Some other things to take care of are:

  • Take breaks and brisk walks for 10 minutes

  • Exercise to make the blood flow better in the legs

  • Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable (avoid tight ones)

  • Take good care of your skin by keeping it supple and moisturized

Skin discoloration on legs: The bottom line

Discoloration on legs or anywhere else is a form of pigmentation issue which is nothing to be scared of unless it increases or forms painful or bloody blisters. Mostly, it is mild in nature and once diagnosed would go away easily. But here’s the catch. You have to be proactive enough to get that diagnosed. Most of us postpone our diagnosis because of all the steps involved in taking a doctor’s appointment. No more. You can now get an instant diagnosis just over a video call.

Download the SkyMD app, fill in your relevant details, and you are good to go. You will always have the comfort of having your doctor just by your side, when you need them. Immediate assistance is the need of the hour. You cannot go running to the clinic for every small thing. And that’s why we have created the SkyMD app for your convenience, but not at the cost of your health.

Our experts will make sure you are taken care of. 


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