Last reviewed by mvhs13 on August 13th, 2018.
What is Livedo Reticularis?
This is a vascular condition that will usually affect your superficial capillaries and blood vessel. It is either symptomatic of a more serious underlying condition or a benign condition that is very common. Although you can see this on the skin of your legs, soles of your feet, palms of your hands, and your arms it is most commonly found on your lower legs. In some rare cases you will see it on your torso. A person who has this skin condition will notice a discoloration on their skin in a “molted” pattern. Although anyone of any age, race, or gender can develop livedo reticularis it is more often seen in females than males.
Livedo Reticularis Symptoms
What symptoms a person has with livedo reticularis will vary with each individual. Many times there are no symptoms. Some of the common symptoms that a person may have can include:
- Having an irregular pattern of a bluish or purplish rash
- Having a netlike or lace-like pattern with a diameter of the mesh being less than three centimeters.
- The rash is not itchy
- The rash has no distinct border and some areas may also be pale
- The joints associated with this condition may become swollen and painful
- Numbness or tingling
- Swelling of the area
What actually causes livedo reticularis can be found underneath your skin in your upper capillaries and blood vessels. When your capillaries and blood vessels are open and dilate then your blood will collect in a pool which translates to having blue or red marking on your skin. Basically this means that your blood vessels have either narrowed or become constricted. This sometimes happens to infants, especially if they are cold. It is also not uncommon for adults to have this response to cold either, especially for a woman. The mottling will usually disappear once your skin warms up. If it happens very often the redness on your skin might start to stay there with no way to get rid of it.
Having livedo reticularis could also be the result of an underlying medical condition that could or could not be serious. One of the more serious medical conditions that this could be a symptom of is lupus, which is an autoimmune disorder. It could also be a symptom of tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or lymphoma. It could also be a symptom of a variety of medical conditions that cause swollen blood vessels which are generally termed vasculitis. It can also be caused by factors or conditions that result in the obstruction or blockage of your blood vessels. These blockages or obstructions could be caused by such things as having an injection or from an infection. It could also happen because of a blood clot or having a high amount of platelets. It could also happen because of anomalies in your vessel walls.
Other causes could include:
- Having a hormonal change or autoimmune response but this is most common in women when they are in their thirties.
- Having an allergic reaction or side effect to certain medications or drugs, especially if the drugs or medications contain hydroxyurea or cocaine
- In some children it could happen because of an inherited chromosome abnormality or a neurological problem
- Spasms of your blood vessels
- Contraction of your blood vessels when they become cold.
If you think that you have livedo reticularis and you visit your physician for a diagnosis they will look at the appearance of your skin, ask you about your symptoms, take your medical history, and do a complete physical exam in order to make the correct diagnosis.
Normally this condition does not require any treatment as it will eventually go away on its own. If it appears that it is a symptom of an underlying condition then the physician will find out what that condition is and treat that medical condition. If the underlying medical condition is rheumatoid arthritis your physician may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication or have you take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to help with the pain and to help decrease the swelling. Depending on what is the cause of your livedo reticularis your physician may prescribe anticoagulants, corticosteroids, or anti-platelet medication. If the cause is poor circulation you should make sure that you are wearing the right type of shoes and take good care of your feet.
- If you have been out in the cold and notice it when you come back inside a warm place you can help clear it up by warming the area with a blanket or a heating pad.
- If it is happening in your lower leg you should see your physician to find out the underlying cause but until you can see your physician you should elevate your leg and use a heating pad set to warm on the leg to help increase the circulation in your leg.