Have you started to notice that the skin on the feet has become darker than other portions of your skin? Are you concerned that this may be a cause for concern? Well, if you are–you’re right! Darkening skin in your feet can be a sign of several different vein conditions, all of which should be brought to your doctor’s attention.
Why Feet Turn Black
For light skin individuals, several things can cause your feet to turn black. In fact, feet that are darker than the rest of your skin can be a side effect of varicose veins. When you have varicose veins (incompetent veins that aren’t functioning properly) blood pools in your legs, leading to swelling–both in your veins and possibly in your legs themselves. In some instances, red blood cells may leak outside the varicose veins. These cells carry some red pigment that, over time, may turn black in color. When these cells end up in your feet, they may contribute to the darker skin color.
While an abundance of red blood cells may cause your feet to change color, lack of blood flow may also affect the appearance of your feet. As plaque builds up in our bodies due to fat and cholesterol, a condition known as Peripheral Arterial Diesease (PAD) may set in. PAD occurs when plaque sticks to your arteries, narrowing them significantly and thus affecting blood flow throughout your body. With PAD, less oxygen-rich blood may reach your feet. In contrast to skin darkening related to varicose veins, color changes related to PAD are unlikely to be accompanied by swelling. Additionally, your dark feet are likely to feel cold or even numb.
Smoking and Changes in Skin Color
While internal factors can certainly contribute to changes in the color of your feet, it’s also important to examine problems in your own habits. Smokers especially may notice marked changes in their skin color:
- Chemicals in cigarettes speed up the aging process, often leaving smokers with uneven skin tone.
- Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, restricting oxygen and blood flow to your extremities. This makes smoking especially dangerous for people with vein conditions that already affect blood flow.
- Smokers’ wounds take longer to heal. If you smoke, have diabetes and notice your feet turning black, you may be dealing with a dangerous ulcer you haven’t even noticed.
Cancer, Eczema and Other Potential Culprits
While all these factors are less common, they could also change the color of your feet. Eczema, when it manifests on your feet can change the color of your skin tone. Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that forms in lymph and blood vessels , can also make the skin on your feet appear darker due to the lesions that characterize this condition.
Regardless of the reason for the change, when the skin on your feet turns dramatically darker, it should be cause for more than just cosmetic concern. All of the things that change the color of the feet will need medical attention, so this is one symptom you should never dismiss or ignore.