What is Mottled Skin: Causes, Definition, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Pictures

Mottled skins on adults in palliative care have long been associated with impending death. Hospice caregivers regularly monitor skin changes for mottling of the upper body as an indicator that the patient only has about a week to live. However, there are other mottled skin causes. Please take a moment to look at the mottled skin pictures.

Understanding What is Mottled Skin

Mottled skin is technically called Livedo reticularis. The blood vessels start to spasm and the circulation process becomes abnormal. The skin takes on a purple marbled appearance.

You can usually decipher a netlike pattern and there are typically discernible borders. If you are wondering what is mottled skin? Then it is a symptom of a condition or underlying cause.

The Definition of Mottled Skin

There are many causes of changes in skin color. The definition of mottled skin just means that the skin has a violet hue that is displaying a vascular pattern. It is a symptom or side effect of something. Frigid temperatures can cause it, but once you warm up the skin returns to its normal look. If you have mottled skin then you should seek medical help to determine the cause.

Many Mottled Skin Causes

There are many causes of purple, blue or brown mottled skin.

Here are the most common causes:

Drug Side Effect. Certain prescription medications, especially those used for

Parkinson’s disease, cause mottled skin.

  • Gemcitabine (brand name Gemzar)
  • Catecholamines
  • Amantadine
  • Minocycline (brand name Minocin)

Lupus: Lupus is a severe autoimmune disorder that occurs in females more than males. One of the first clues of the disorder is mottled skin on legs.

Antiphospholipid syndrome: This condition also falls into the category of an autoimmune disorder that affects the vascular system. Mottling occurs on the wrists and in some individuals the knees.

Pancreatitis: This inflammatory disorder causes in many body parts such as on stomach and on thighs.

Low Platelet Count: The mottling can occur on arms and on palms of hands but is nothing to worry about.

Age: The elderly have cardiac conditions, poor circulation, and other vascular problems that cause blue extremities.

Poor Circulation: Circulation disorders can occur in young and old alike. It often goes hand in hand cardiovascular diseases.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): RA is an inflammatory disease that also attacks the blood vessels. With RA, the mottled pattern is dark and highly noticeable.

Hypothyroidism: A thyroid gland becomes underactive. You experience weight gain, fatigue, depression, and mottling.

Shock: If an accident occurs such as an auto wreck, electrocution, shooting, stabbing, fall, or some other trauma then the victim enters a state of shock. The person feels cold with mottling and paleness. Immediate emergency care is required or the person could easily perish. Shock is considered a life-threatening condition as the body shuts down.

Mottled Skin in Toddler, Child, or Teenager

If your child is sick and running a fever while displaying signs of mottled skin then you should seek emergency help because it could be a sign of meningitis.

Symptoms include headache, vomiting, neck stiffness, fever, inability to cope with bright lights, seizures, sleepy, stiff body, jerky motions, and confusion. Meningitis can be a life-threatening condition.

Cutis Marmorata in Newborn

Cutis Marmorata refers to mottled skin on a newborn. Lacy blue and red patterns form in baby when exposed to cold. Rewarming of the skin eases the physiologic response to cold. It happens because of an immature neurological and vascular system. The vessels alternate between constriction and dilation. You will notice it the most on the palms of hands and feet. If the disorder persists past infancy, it can show Down’s syndrome (trisomy 21), Cornelia de Lange syndromes, and Edwards (trisomy 18). Infants developing sepsis also display the telltale rash.

Cutaneous Marmorata Telangiectasia Congenita (CMTC) in Infants

Cutis marmorata telangiectatica congenita (CMTC) occurs at birth and is a congenital defect of the blood vessels that causes it to dilute them. The baby looks like it was wrapped in a blue fishnet because of the markings on the skin.

The look like bluish patterns is the crucial factor that lets the obstetrician know there is something wrong at birth.

A Few Mottled Skin Pictures

Not all mottled skin looks alike. The patterns and colors denote the various causes and can be a window into the physical well-being of the individual. Here are a few mottled skin pictures to look over.

Mottled Skin Not Vascular

Sometimes mottles kin is not vascular but from changes in melanin, overgrowth of bacteria, fungal, or inflammation. Tinea versicolor is a fungus that attacks the skin’s normal pigment.

The condition, also called pityriasis versicolor, causes widespread light and dark patches in a mottled pattern. It is often made worse by sun exposure. Itching and scaling also occur. A combination of humidity and oily skin cause an overgrowth of the fungal colonies. Treatment includes:

  • Selenium sulfide available at drugstores as a shampoo
  • Itraconazole (brand name Onmel or Sporanox)
  • Ketoconazole (brand name Ketoconazole or Nizoral)
  • Fluconazole (brand name Diflucan)

Additional Mottled Skin Causes

Mottled skin remains a symptom and not a disorder. It gives a physician a clue to figure out what could be causing the strange patterns.

Here are a few rare additional causes:

  • Exposure to heavy metals
  • Toxins
  • Radiation exposure
  • Excessive heat
  • Injury
  • Genetics
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Bacteria
  • A symptom of certain cancers



Article References:

  1. https://www.meningitis.org/meningitis/check-symptoms/toddlers
  2. https://www.aocd.org/page/CutisMarmorata
  3. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/cutis-marmorata-telangiectatica-congenita/
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003224.htm