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Vascular Surgery

Circulation problems



What causes a persons feet and legs to turn bluish purple in color when sitting up but return to normal color when reclining?


Bluish discoloration of the feet may be due to problems with the veins. Many people have a family history of varicose veins, have spent long hours on their feet at a job, or are overweight and develop problems with their veins. The valves in the veins of the leg become leaky and as a result the feet can become swollen with blood and bluish in color. If there has been a history of smoking and or diabetes, often times blockages can develop in the leg arteries (remember arteries carry blood TO the legs; veins carry blood AWAY from the legs) that are so severe that the foot will turn red when in a sitting position, but blanch or turn white when reclining. While vein problems can be annoying, they rarely require medical treatment other than weight loss and compression stockings. Arterial problems often require interventions and surgery. Finally, occasionally people who have had spinal cord injuries can note bluish discoloration of the feet when sitting secondary to problems with their nervous system. Best of luck!

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Response by:

Amy B Reed, MD Amy B Reed, MD
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