What can cause brown spots on the lower legs?

My husband has developed this brown skin pigmentation, which resembles freckles, on his lower legs and we have no idea what it is or what has caused it. Can you help us? Do you know what it could be? We would greatly appreciate any information you may have that would help us know what it could be. We look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Kristen and Jason

This is a fairly common problem in both men and women.   Over time, the occasional brown spot can gradually turn into an accumulation of these which can be unsightly.   Here are some things to consider.

Most common cause of brown spots on lower legs

Brown spots are often caused by sun damage over many years.   It could be just a couple of bad burns or it could be just years of golfing in shorts without much sunscreen.

So what can you do to treat it? These are hard to clear up, but it can be done.

  1. Consider gentle laser treatments (See my guide to IPL Photorejuvenation Laser for more info)
  2. Consistently avoid sun exposure on the brown spot area
  3. Use high zinc sunscreens when you do go outside, even if briefly. Here’s a thorough guide to picking the best sunscreen for you. I outline great products you can find at your local drugstore or department store.

Second most common cause of brown spots on lower legs

The other most common cause is leaky capillaries in the lower leg. Capillaries (the tiny blood vessels that feed the skin) can get irritated and then red blood cells may leak out.  The red blood cells themselves get reabsorbed by the body, but the iron in the cells remains.  This causes a type of iron (hemosiderin) tattoo. There are many causes for the iron (hemosiderin)  in skin problem, so see your doctor. I recently wrote a woman about this very problem in more depth here.

What can you do to treat it?  Sometimes something as simple as aspirin or a course of ibuprofen can thin the blood enough that there will be leakage.  Sometimes the underlying veins are a problem, and there are other causes that are internal. Again, see your doctor to see what is best for your situation.

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 skin care advocate.

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