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

Mottled Skin

Mottled skin (livedo reticularis) is a skin condition that makes the skin appear net-like or patchy. The irregular patchy skin may look discolored due to changes in blood vessels, excessive sun exposure, or advanced age.

This skin condition often appears as red patches on the arms, trunk, and leg areas which later turn purple or dark brown. Medically known as livedo reticularis, this Latin name means a net-like, bluish appearance.

Livedo reticularis is often caused by internal changes in the body which affect the blood vessels. It is a painless condition often experienced in a colder climate.

What Does Mottled Skin (Livedo Reticularis) Mean?

Mottled skin affects the blood vessels in your body which leads to skin discoloration amongst the other symptoms. The condition is visible in light-skinned people, but it can equally affect the dark-skinned individuals.

Common causes of mottled skin include:

  • Changes in body temperature
  • Medical conditions
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Blood disorders
  • Aging

In babies and children, mottled skin is related to circulatory system development and heals on its own.

Signs and Symptoms of Mottled Skin

  • Purplish-blue or red patches imitating lace are often the main sign of mottled skin. These occur due to blood vessel constriction which stops the blood circulation throughout the body.
  • People with decreased skin pigmentation have skin mottling patches that are prominent compared to dark skinned individuals. But both can have similar changes in blood vessels.
  • In rare cases, it can be a sign of a serious medical condition. Sudden bouts of mottled skin combined with pain and difficulty in breathing can be a sign of a shock.

If such symptoms are present, it is recommended to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Causes of Mottled Skin (Livedo Reticularis)

Conditions which cause mottled skin can range in severity from mild to serious. Those with underlying health conditions should seek medical attention for further evaluation and treatment.

1. Improper Circulation

Proper blood circulation is what keeps our bodily systems functioning optimally. Circulation interference from blood disorders can be a leading cause of decreased oxygen supply to the blood cells. The skin, in this case, can appear patchy and purplish-blue or red.

2. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a rare but possible cause of mottled skin. It may cause severe muscle pain, insomnia, and fatigue.

3. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Autoimmune disorders are often a cause of mottled skin and affect the skin tone. In some cases, it can accompany pain and inflammation.

4. Hormones

Hormones play a major role in our health, and hormonal changes may cause mottled skin. Disease, dietary restrictions, and specialized treatments for the diseases can cause this skin condition.

5. Medication

Medications for certain medical conditions may make the sin appear purplish-blue as a side effect. As noted, drugs often prescribed to treat Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis can cause this reaction.

6. Core Body Temperature Changes

Body temperature change is one of the most common causes of this condition. If you have thin skin, changes in blood vessels are more obvious than others. Skin pigmentation can be a reason why lighter skinned people can see mottled skin more clearly.

7. Heart Disease

With many other symptoms, anything contributing to the factors and complications of heart disease can cause mottled skin. Also if you suffer from a cardiovascular disorder, you are at higher risk.

8. Hughes Syndrome

Hughes syndrome is often referred to as the antiphospholipid syndrome. It is a rare blood disorder often paired with lupus. Hughes syndrome can also cause blood clots. Blood clots impact blood circulation through the body which can cause mottled skin.

What Causes Mottled Skin in Babies and Children?

Mottled skin in babies and children should not concern you much. The causes in both are often quite natural, and most disappear without treatment.

As babies and children develop, their blood vessels develop as well. Babies often experience mottled skin in relation to their sympathetic nervous system. It is often referred to as the fight or flight response.

Causes of Mottled Skin in Babies

  • Change in color of the skin due to an underdeveloped circulatory system
  • Exposure to a cold environment impacting the upper surface of the skin
  • Immature circulatory system due to age
  • Uneven dilatation of blood vessels throughout the body

Causes of Mottled Skin in Children

It should not be of a great concern in children. Mottled skin in children disappears without any treatment. It is due to the unregulated sympathetic nervous system.

  • Exposure to cold environment
  • Immature circulatory system makes the hands or feet turn bluish in comparison to other parts of the body
  • It may appear when children cry

Mottled skin in children can have other impacts such as low self-esteem. If the condition persists over an extended period you should report it to a doctor immediately.

What Causes Mottled Skin on Arms and Legs?

Mottled skin is commonly noticed in red lacy patches that are present on the arms and legs. It will appear red and will often turn into a bluish-purple color over time.

The arms and legs are common areas that get low oxygen or have circulatory issues, especially if your hands and feet are cold.

Doctors may advise topical treatment for mottled skin appearance on the arms and legs but the best treatment is to reverse the causes.

Home Remedies for Mottled Skin (Livedo Reticularis)

You can try natural home remedies for the mottled skin to help soothe the condition. In many cases, this skin disease will disappear once you treat the underlying cause.

Here are few effective home treatments for Livedo Reticularis:

1. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a soothing gel that can instantly ease itching or irritation to the area. It protects the skin from smoke, sun rays, and can be a great way to heal cuts or burns. Try using aloe vera to treat any redness associated with mottled skin.

2. Oatmeal

Oatmeal contains several anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that could help eliminate redness associated with mottled skin.

An oatmeal bath can be the best way to treat livedo reticularis which is affecting the large body parts. It can also help you cure the dryness around the affected skin.

3. Green Tea

Green tea is known for its anti-inflammatory purposes. It can also help you minimize the redness associated with the mottled skin.

The properties in green tea help ease the swelling and discomfort. Steep one tea bag of green tea in hot water, soak a cloth in it and apply it to the affected area.

4. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been in talks lately for its incredible natural healing powers. You can use coconut oil to help rehydrate the skin.

5. Yogurt

Yogurt is probably the oddest of the natural remedies for mottled skin. Lactic acid in yogurt can be effective for this skin condition. Plain yogurt contains alpha hydroxyl acid which is present in cosmetics to help smooth dry, rough skin.

Mottled skin isn’t harmful. Though the blood vessels near the skin surface turn from red to purplish-blue, it isn’t alarming. It can disappear by itself.

Remember that it can be incurred by an existing medical condition. If this condition is persistent, seek medical attention immediately.

Read Next:

Cucic, A., “Mottled Skin,” Med Health Daily web site, August 31st, 2017;
“What is Mottled Skin (Livedo Reticularis): Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments,” Doctors Health Press web site, August 31st, 2017;
“Mottled Skin Causes, Pictures, Baby Mottled Skin on Legs, Arms, Treatment,” Treat n Heal web site, August 31st, 2017;

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