Brown spots, hair, swelling and other leg problems. Myths vs what works!

Brown spots on my legs. Legs are smooth and I've been wearing compression socks with no results.

This time of year, many women/men look at their legs and get critical. 🙂 I’m thinking it must be the shorts and skirts that emerge from the back of the closet. One great thing about lots of hair on the legs (mostly guys in our culture) is that the hair kinda protects the skin from sun and also hides veins, brown spots, crusty spots (keratoses), etc. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about how to treat these leg problems.

Some Myths:

  • Compression hose will help brown spots –  they don’t!
  • Shaving your legs will cause more hair growth – it doesn’t.
  • Varicose veins are caused by crossing your legs – not true.
  • Ankle swelling is due to age – it depends on other health factors
  • Wrinkles on the upper thighs are inevitable – they are not!

What Does Work?

  • Brown spots on the legs. Sunscreen or cover religiously, glycolics help, and Fraxel laser treatments (1927 nm wavelength) if spots are due to sun damage. Brown spots that are due to iron deposits in the skin from leaky blood vessels are very difficult to treat. See your doctor for accurate diagnosis
  • Hairy legs. Laser hair removal is the best and most permanent as long as the hair color is slightly darker than your skin color. Otherwise the usual waxing, sugaring, etc.
  • Iron deposits (hemosiderin). Difficult to treat so the best strategy is prevention. These are small brownish red spots that accumulate over time and are related to red blood cells that leak from the veins and small blood vessels. Usually caused by varicose veins, recurrent bruises, medications that anticoagulate like aspirin, warfarin, ibuprofen, etc taken frequently. Sometimes these are streaks left after treatment of varicose veins. See your doctor!
  • Swelling in the legs. This can be caused by heart problems so, if you’re not sure, see your doctor.   Also caused by a number other problems including varicose veins. Compression hose help. Varicose veins are those larger, ropey veins that stick out. The smaller spidery ones are called telangectasias or spider veins. Treatment is usually some form of sclerotherapy which is a solution (there are different ones) injected into the veins to make them shrivel up and go away.
  • Wrinkles on the upper thighs. Usually caused by a combination of sun damage and muscle loss and/or more extreme weight loss which can leave the skin a bit loose. Best treatment is to build up the underlying muscles with exercise and treat the sun damage with lasers. Sculptra can be used on the body (off-label) but only experts should do this because it’s tricky to do well.

Hope this helps,   Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate.

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