What Is Mottled Skin (Livedo Reticularis): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

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Livedo ReticularisIf you notice the surface of your skin turn a purplish-blue color with a patchy lace pattern, please understand that this does not always indicate a serious health condition. Nor does it necessarily mean the end of life, as the old folktale may claim. Mottled skin, also known as livedo reticularis, is alone a harmless condition that is commonly seen with vascular issues and autoimmune diseases.

We will answer the burning question, what is mottled skin? And, we’ll show you how to get rid of mottled skin.

What Does Mottled Skin (Livedo Reticularis) Mean?

So, what does mottled skin mean? Its medical reference, livedo reticularis, refers to the Latin description of a bluish, net-like appearance. The discoloration of the skin with lines and patches of purple and blue is actually the constricting of the blood vessels close to the skin’s surface. This can occur as internal changes directly affect the blood vessels, including your body temperature, the aging process, health conditions, sun exposure, and medication use. It is a painless condition that is more visible when in cold temperature environments.

This can show as patterns across the arms, legs, and face ranging from red to deep brown or purple. Mottled skin is seen in both males and females, with the patches appearing more pronounced in those with light skin.

Mottled Skin (Livedo Reticularis) Symptoms

Because the most obvious symptom of mottled skin is the pattern of purplish-blue lines imitating lace, this condition is usually easy to recognize. The discoloration is affected by the blood vessels closest to the top layer of skin, so individuals with translucent skin pigmentation will notice changes right away.

What may not be so easy is knowing exactly what is causing the blood vessels to constrict in most cases. If the mottled skin is accompanied by severe symptoms of breathing difficulty, pain, or the sudden onset of the patch-like skin, there is likely a serious health condition behind it and immediate medical attention may be required.

Livedo Reticularis Causes: When Is Mottled Skin Due to Underlying Health Problems?

The underlying health conditions that cause the mottled skin to appear can range in severity from mild, treatable conditions to those of a serious nature with only manageable symptoms.

1. Impaired Circulation

The health and proper functioning of our body parts and systems depends on normal blood circulation. Blood disorders and syndromes that hinder or interfere with circulation can cause a lack of essential oxygenated, hemoglobin-rich, blood cells. This can affect the appearance of the skin, resulting in purplish-blue patches.

2. Lupus

Since the autoimmune disease lupus directly affects the skin with various symptoms and conditions, it could also cause mottled skin. This is prevalent in young lupus patients as well as females of all ages. Exposure to cold temperatures, both internal and external, can cause the changes in the skin.

3. Rheumatoid Arthritis

In some cases of rheumatoid arthritis, another autoimmune disorder, patients may experience a change in the tone of their skin, including mottled skin. The lesser-known symptom of a darker skin pattern can accompany the pain and inflammation of the joints. This is due to the affect this disorder has on the blood vessels near the surface of the skin.

4. Fibromyalgia

This chronic condition may produce mottled skin as a mild symptom compared to the traditional severe muscle pain, insomnia, and general fatigue.

5. Antiphospholipid Syndrome

Better known as Hughes syndrome, this blood disorder is often observed with lupus cases, and may cause blood clots to form. These blood clots affect blood circulation, so mottled skin is considered to be a possible key symptom.

6. Pancreatitis

The debilitating pain associated with an inflamed pancreas can be followed by mottled skin of the arms and the legs. Acute cases of pancreatitis can also cause nausea and vomiting.

7. Hormones

Hormonal changes linked to diseases and special diets may cause mottled skin. Hypothyroidism is just one example. Specialized treatment to increase the levels of thyroid hormone can lead to the discoloration of the skin.

8. Medication

As a side effect of medication for some health conditions, the purplish-blue patches of skin can appear. This is often seen with drugs prescribed for Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Mottled Skin (Livedo Reticularis): Other Possible Causes

In addition to the mentioned underlying health conditions, we should also note there are other conditions that may cause mottled skin. Any of the following situations can attribute to the visibility of the patchy discoloration of the skin because they can directly, or indirectly, affect the blood vessels.

  • Changes in internal core body temperature can affect blood circulation (this can also be apparent in response to external extreme cold temperatures)
  • The thinning of the elasticity of the skin against the blood vessels during the aging process
  • Any treatment for blood clots or their prevention may cause the appearance of the purplish-blue pattern.
  • Underdeveloped circulatory or vascular system in newborns and infants (the mottled skin usually dissipates with age)
  • Prolonged exposure to the sun, such as a day spent in the park or on a beach, even with SPF protection

Mottled Skin (Livedo Reticularis) Treatments

The mottled skin treatment focuses on the underlying cause of the condition as most times it will disappear if the health cause is treated or cured. For cases not associated with a health condition, it can be treated and possibly prevented by keeping skin covered in extreme cold temperatures and in sunlight. There are home remedies for patients who seem to have a more permanent case of mottled skin.

1. Aloe Vera

In addition to the touted healing powers of aloe vera plant gel,  it can also be used to protect the skin from the sun and to alleviate any redness of the skin from the mottled skin patches. Leave on the affected area for at least 30 minutes, if not until your next shower or bath.

2. Baking Soda

The patches may require removal of any dead skin cells and baking soda is a natural exfoliant. Combine three tablespoons of baking soda with water to create a paste. Apply directly to mottled skin for a 30-minute massage treatment. Rinse and repeat once a day or three times a week.

3. Oatmeal

The anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant components of oatmeal could eliminate redness of the mottled skin while moisturizing any rough patches. You can apply a paste of the oatmeal mixed with water and honey directly on the patches. Add oatmeal to a warm bath for an overall body treatment.

4. Green Tea

Just as with oatmeal, you can also target the redness and inflammation with the powerful properties of green tea. You can apply it to the mottled skin by steeping one tea bag in hot water and soaking a cloth in it to put on affected skin. You can also add rice flour or oatmeal powder to create a healing paste. Repeat three times each week.

5. Coconut Oil

Use the anti-septic and anti-microbial properties of coconut oil to help rehydrate the dry patches of molted skin. You can apply it directly on the affected area and for the skin to absorb or create a paste mixed with one teaspoons of honey and sugar. Repeat twice each week.

6. Yogurt

Target any rough mottled skin patches with the soothing treatment of yogurt. Apply and leave on affected area for a 30-minute treatment before rinsing. Repeat three times a week.

Mottled skin is not a dangerous condition to have as it is an indicator of the physical properties of the blood vessels near the skin surface. Yet, the sight of purplish-blue lines creating a pattern on the arms, legs, or face can be troublesome for some patients. It can be brought on by an underlying health condition that may require treatment, and it is possible that the mottled skin signs will disappear once the condition causing them is treated or managed. For those patients with a more permanent condition of the patchy skin, there are several natural home remedies that may lessen the appearance and any accompanying symptoms of mottled skin.

Also Read:

Why Is My Skin Sensitive to the Touch?

“Mottled Skin: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis,” ePain Assist; https://www.epainassist.com/skin/mottled-skin, last accessed May 29, 2017.
“Mottled Skin Causes, Pictures, Baby Mottled Skin on Legs, Arms, Treatment,” Health Meds; http://www.healthmeds.org/skin/mottled-skin/, last accessed May 29, 2017.