Is Livedo Reticularis Serious?

Livedo reticularis is a condition that causes purple/red patches that form a web/net. It can be related to bad circulation, arthritis, and underactive thyroid. Treatments like oxygen, fluids, and medicines are based on the cause of the symptoms.

livedo reticularis

Are you experiencing patches of purple/red skin shaped like a web? If so then you might have something called livedo reticularis or “mottled” skin. Due to the symptoms, you might be wondering whether or not this is a serious condition. This condition is sometimes stand-alone and other times is caused by other factors like side-effects of certain prescription drugs. Skin conditions can cause worry and especially when they involve colored and patterned skin.  As always, it’s critical to get the facts about this condition. For example, is this condition serious? What are the symptoms of this condition and what causes it?

The most important question is whether or not this condition is dangerous. A big factor is a particular condition that’s causing the skin condition. If you have mottled skin and you’re not sure of the cause you should certainly get it checked out by a doctor. He/She can do an examination and order tests to determine the root cause of the symptoms. For example, if you have an autoimmune disease it could become serious if your own immune system works attacks healthy cells. On the other hand, if you have symptoms of mottled skin there’s a chance that’s the only condition you have.

What Is Livedo Reticularis?

This is also known as “mottled skin.” It makes parts of the skin turn purple-red in net/web patterns. They usually appear on the upper body, arms, or legs.

In some cases, you just have the condition itself. Scientists aren’t sure about what causes this condition. However, in other situations, it’s a symptom of another condition. There are other causes including medications for different diseases.

There are various known causes of livedo reticularis’ symptoms. They include:

Blood Circulation

If you have poor blood circulation then you might also experience this skin condition. Here’s what happens. When your body lacks oxygen-rich blood it can cause the skin to discolor. That’s because the red blood cells lack a certain kind of protein.


This is an autoimmune/inflammatory condition. It can cause various symptoms including this skin condition. Lupus is linked to sunlight sensitivity, which might result in skin rashes including a butterfly-shaped one on the patient’s face.

Hughes Syndrome

This is another autoimmune condition that usually affects ages ranging from young adults to middle-aged adults. In fact, livedo reticularis is the most common symptom of this condition. There are other possible symptoms like blood clots, blood circulation issues, etc.


A type known as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can also cause this skin condition. What’s it all about? It’s an autoimmune disease that is quite common and affects around 1.5 million US residents alone.

RA has primary symptoms but can also cause other symptoms like mottled skin. This is due to inflammation having a negative effect on the patient’s blood vessels.

Underactive thyroid

This is another possible cause of mottled skin. What’s the thyroid all about? It’s a gland that makes hormones that affect a person’s metabolism.

We often hear about an over-active thyroid. However, the gland can also be under-active. This condition can cause various other symptoms like weight gain and fatigue.

Livedo Reticularis: How Is Mottled Skin Treated?

The type of treatment a doctor will likely order is greatly related to the cause of the symptoms. It’s important to see a doctor if you experience mottled skin symptoms and aren’t certain why.

Make sure to explain your symptoms to your doctor. This will help him/her to determine the root cause of mottled skin. They’ll also likely to order tests run to determine the exact condition that’s causing the symptoms. Here are some possible treatments based on the cause:

End of Life

If a person experiences mottled skin as a symptom of end-of-life there isn’t’ much the doctors can do. The good news is they can help to make the patient as comfy and pain-free as possible.

Autoimmune Disease

These types of diseases cause a person’s immune system to attack healthy cells. This is obviously a situation you’ll want to deal with immediately. Your doctor might prescribe meds that control the immune system’s response and lower inflammation.


If you have this condition then the doctor might prescribe things like meds and injected fluids for the “acute” variety that’s less serious than the chronic type. Your doctor might also recommend lifestyle changes related to diet and exercise.


If this is the cause of the symptoms then treatments might include fluids and oxygen. In fact, it’s important to contact your doctor immediately if a person’s body is in shock. This could be a sign of a serious condition and could involve various symptoms besides the skin condition.

Poor Blood Circulation

If you suffer from this condition then your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes. For example, if you sit all day at work your physician will probably recommend that you exercise more during the day. This could even just include doing light exercise like walking, biking, or swimming.

Special Cases and Prevention

There are a few special situations related to mottled skin that are worth noting:


Sometimes newborn babies have mottled skin. The good news is it’s harmless and usually these symptoms disappear over time. One of the main causes is exposure to cold air. So, it’s important to keep your infant wrapped up in order to prevent this condition.


This condition is generally common among the elderly compared to other age groups. The skin condition might also include other symptoms including:

  • Refusing food/water
  • Problems swallowing
  • Breathing problems
  • Unconsciousness
  • Slower heart rate
  • Fatigue/weakness
  • In some situations, these symptoms are end-of-life symptoms. It’s important to observe if other symptoms are present besides the ones related to mottled skin.

It could be warning signs the person is near the end of life. If that’s the case it’s critical for the patient to be as comfortable as possible during their last days.

The good news is people can take steps to reduce the risk of experiencing this condition or the risk of it becoming worse. For example, it’s important to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly whenever possible. You can also reduce the risk of bad blood circulation by quitting smoking.

Another factor that makes the condition worse is cold temperatures. So, if you have mottled skin it’s important to wrap up warm to prevent the skin condition from getting worse.

Even if you acquire this condition it’s important to get it checked out immediately. If you have a condition that’s causing mottled skin then you’ll want to know what it is. This can help you get the treatment you need.

Even if you have this condition it can be managed better if you know the root cause. This is true whether it’s caused by another condition/disease or you simply have stand-alone symptoms from livedo reticularis.

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