What are the Most Common Causes of Purple Skin?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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There are several conditions that can lead to purple skin. Bruises are likely to be one of the most common. Port wine stains are hyperpigmentation conditions that are generally non-threatening. If the area itches and there are bumps, a person may be suffering from lichen planus. A more serious condition involving purple skin is Kaposi sarcoma, a type of cancer that progresses quickly in individuals with AIDS.

Bruises are one of the most common causes of purple discoloration of the skin. This discoloration occurs as a result of trauma. Capillaries are small blood vessels that act as exchange mechanisms between arteries and veins. When a person is injured, say for example that she is punched in the arm, capillaries can be damaged or broken that will allow blood to leak and gather under the skin. Bruises are generally accompanied by pain, and people are often advised to apply cold packs to them.

Port wine stains are a type of hyperpigmentation that can result in purple skin. This condition, which often begins at birth, is caused by capillaries that do not form normally. Port wine stains are often pink when a person is young. As the person ages, the color of the spots tend to change and become purple. It is believed by some that when these stains occur on the eye that there is an increased risk of glaucoma.


If the purple skin discoloration is accompanied by an itchy rash, the problem may be lichen planus. Scratching is commonly noted as having the effect of causing more purple bumps to appear. This is a disease whose cause is unknown, but certain drugs and chemicals are suspected to be triggers. The condition may remain active for as long as a year. Although lichen planus often subsides without treatment, for many people the problem is recurring.

Purple skin discoloration that appears striated may be caused by spider veins. This condition is similar to varicose veins in many ways, including the fact that it is caused by poor circulation and it tends to have a comparable spider web appearance. A major difference, however, is that the veins associated with this condition are small. Their position close to the surface of the skin is the cause of the purple appearance.

Kaposi sarcoma is a disease in which cancer cells may, among other things, cause purple skin lesions. The discoloration of these lesions is created by the supply of blood that flows into them. The lesions may appear on various areas of the body, including the arms, thighs, and face. In some instances, these lesions may be inflamed and painful, but some individuals do not experience any pain. It is widely reported that AIDS causes this type of cancer to progress much faster than it normally would otherwise.


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Post 2

Since there are so many causes of purple skin, it is vital that anyone who has a sudden occurrence of it not related to a simple bruise seek medical attention as soon as possible. More than likely, the root cause is something minor. However, as this article points out, there are also serious conditions that can cause purple skin so it is necessary to get a diagnosis.

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