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Red Spots on Legs

Red Spots on Legs

Red spots on legs may arise due to various medical conditions, however, not all of them are serious. Sometimes they may even hurt or bleed. The severity of the spots may depend on the underlying cause. The spots may even spread to other parts of the body...
Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Red spots on skin is a common symptom to many skin disorders. There are several causes behind red spots on skin, right from infections to skin pigmentation, to some severe underlying diseases. However, the symptoms are often the same, i.e. red spots. Although, these spots may vary in size, shape and color, their basic characteristics remain the same. The occurrence of red spots is more on the hands, legs and torso.
What Causes Red Spots on Legs
Red spots on the legs, often termed as leg rashes, can be reddish, purplish or even brownish-yellow in color. They can be flat, raised, or bump-like, and may greatly vary in size. While most of the causes of red spots given below are benign in nature, some of them may need immediate medical intervention. Let, us take a look at the various conditions that may cause red spots or leg rashes.
Psoriasis

If you have red spots on the legs that are surrounded by silver-white scales, then psoriasis could be the cause behind it. This is another common skin disease which affects about 8 million people in the US alone. Plaque psoriasis is the form of psoriasis which is most common. Psoriasis results when the skin cell production exceeds the normal levels. Psoriasis cannot be treated completely, but it can be controlled with the help of certain medications.
Allergies

There are various types of allergies, and red spots on legs could be the result of any kind of allergy. Most insect bites result in red spots that itch. However, allergies to bee stings or wasp stings, could be more than just a normal skin rash. Big, itchy bumps appear which are often accompanied by hives. Red spots on the legs due to insect bites mostly occur while trekking or camping, when you do not cover your legs properly. Similarly, allergies could be due to cosmetics or certain medications as well.
Schamberg's Disease

This disease is characterized by reddish-brown spots found on the legs, ankles and feet. Although it begins by affecting the legs, the spots spread to other parts of the body as well. Rarely these spots itch or hurt. These splotches occur as a result of leaking blood vessels near the skin's surface. The red blood cells happen to release their iron content, which is what imparts the reddish-brown color. However, what exactly causes this leakage is still unknown.
Erythema nodosum

Mostly considered to be a hypersensitivity reaction, this condition is a rare skin disorder, that affects the fatty layers of the skin. It appears as red spots or lesions on the lower legs. It may also appear on the arms or lower legs. However, before these red lesions appear, the person will experience cold-like symptoms, such as fever, body ache, etc. These red bumps are painful and turn to purplish and then brown. These lesions mostly disappear after 6 weeks, however, may reappear again.
Bowen's disease

In this disease, abnormal growth of cells in the epidermis of skin (outermost skin layer) is seen. Red patches or spots begin to appear on the lower legs, and other parts of the body as well. They may or may not itch, and sometimes may even bleed. This disease is also referred to as intraepidermal squamous cell carcinoma, because the abnormal outgrowth is cancerous. However, there's no reason to panic. Bowen's disease can be treated, and when left untreated can lead to skin cancer.
Dermatofibromas

This is a form of non-cancerous skin disorder, in which reddish-brown spots or bumps are seen to develop on the lower legs. These bumps are quite firm and continue to remain on the skin for years together. Their color may change over the years. Although mostly painless, they may feel tender at times. They may also itch for some people. Treatment is usually carried out if they are causing discomfort of any sort.
Petechiae

When blood vessels in the skin break, blood leaks into the skin tissues, resulting in appearance of reddish spots on the skin. These tiny red spots, formed due to capillary leak are called petechiae. They mostly develop on the legs, however, can also occur on other parts of the body. In most cases, the spots do not itch or hurt. This condition is mainly caused by some kind of physical trauma or strenuous activity, like vomiting, coughing, etc.
Infections

Our skin is the first to report any kind of abnormality in our body. Infections are also the result of contamination of the body due to some external factors. Bacterial infection commonly leads to red lesions on the skin, which heal very slowly.
Eczema

Eczema is an allergic response by the skin to certain irritations. It is a chronic skin condition which has little or no treatment. Eczema tends to appear in bouts, with alternate periods of skin rash and fairly healthy skin. Young children are the primary victims of eczema. However, eczema is rarely a cause of red spots on legs, as it tends to occur mostly on face and neck.
Other Causes

Sometimes, ingrown hair can also result in red spots on the legs. They can also be an indicator of skin cancers, diabetes, folliculitis, or even peripheral artery disease. A reaction to sulpha drugs or birth control pills can also cause red spot formation.
It's often difficult to understand what the underlying cause for these red spots on the legs are. However, a dermatologist should be able to diagnose them, based on their appearance. If you find spots on your legs, which do not seem to fade away in a few days, make sure you visit a dermatologist. It may not be something to worry about, nevertheless, it's best to have it checked out. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice.