A grey scale close-up image of two feet crossed at the ankles.

What Causes Purple Feet in the Elderly?

The elderly population is especially prone to developing a condition known as purple feet. In this condition, the feet visibly turn a shade of purple because of poor circulation and lack of oxygen reaching the affected areas. It is important to understand the causes and treatments of purple feet in order to properly attend to elderly individuals who are suffering from this common medical issue.

What Causes Purple Feet in Elderly People?

The primary cause of purple feet in the elderly is poor circulation. As we age, our cardiovascular systems become less efficient and the veins and arteries that transport oxygen throughout the body become more constricted, reducing the amount of blood and oxygen reaching our feet. This can be further exacerbated by a lack of activity and exercise, leading to swelling and discoloration of the feet.

Purple feet in the elderly can also be a sign of various underlying health conditions. It is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of purple feet, as it can be an indication that something serious is going on.

Possible causes of purple feet include:

  • Bruises from foot injuries: Elderly individuals are at a higher risk of injury due to weakened bones and thinning skin. Bruises can cause blockage in the veins, resulting in poor circulation and discoloration of the feet.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can lead to nerve damage, which can interfere with normal blood flow and cause purple feet.
  • Kidney disease: Kidney failure can cause a buildup of toxins in the bloodstream, which can impede circulation and result in purple feet.
  • Vascular diseases: Diseases such as peripheral artery disease and deep vein thrombosis can reduce the amount of oxygenated blood reaching the feet, resulting in discoloration.
  • Ischemic foot: Ischemic foot is a condition caused by poor circulation and lack of oxygen reaching the affected areas.
  • Acrocyanosis: Acrocyanosis is a condition in which the feet turn purple due to poor circulation.
  • Raynaud’s disease: Raynaud’s disease is an underlying condition that causes the blood vessels to constrict, resulting in reduced circulation and discoloration of the toes and feet.

What are the Treatments for Purple Feet?

Treatment for purple feet in the elderly begins with lifestyle changes. Regular exercise, stretching, and weight management are important in improving circulation and helping to reduce the appearance of discoloration. Additionally, if an underlying medical condition is contributing to poor circulation, it must be addressed in order to prevent further discoloration and other health issues.

Home Remedies

Home remedies that could reduce the risk of purple feet in seniors include the following.

  • Wear supportive, comfortable shoes. Supportive shoes can improve circulation in the feet, reducing discoloration.
  • Elevate the legs: Using a footstool to elevate the feet above the heart for 10-15 minutes once or twice per day can improve circulation and reduce swelling.
  • Soak feet in warm water: Taking regular warm baths or soaking the feet in warm water can help improve circulation and reduce discoloration.
  • Apply lotion: Applying a moisturizing lotion to the feet can help keep them soft and supple, preventing dryness that can lead to purple feet.
  • Massage: Massaging the feet gently for several minutes each day can help with circulation and reduce swelling.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet: Eating a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help support the overall health of the circulatory system and the feet.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking is known to reduce circulation, so quitting can be beneficial in preventing purple feet.
  • Avoid tight clothing, especially around the legs and feet, which can impair circulation.
  • Take breaks: Taking regular breaks from sitting or standing activities can help improve circulation and reduce the risk of discoloration. Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time, as this can lead to poor circulation and purple feet.
  • Wear compression stockings: Wearing compression stockings can reduce swelling and improve circulation in the legs and feet.
  • Keep feet warm and dry: Keeping the feet warm and dry can prevent cold temperatures from reducing circulation and causing discoloration.
  • Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining healthy circulation, and drinking enough water can help reduce the risk of purple feet.

Exercise is also incredibly helpful as it can help improve circulation throughout the body. Walking and swimming are great choices for many to improve circulation. However, it is important to note that any exercise should be approved by your loved one’s doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Medical Treatments

Compression socks can also be used to help reduce the appearance and symptoms of purple feet. These garments provide gentle pressure around the affected area, helping to improve circulation and reduce swelling. They should be selected carefully, as ill-fitting compression socks can cause discomfort or further health complications. Talk to the doctor regarding which type of compression hose is right for your condition.

Finally, medical professionals may prescribe medications to help reduce the symptoms of purple feet. These include vasodilators that widen blood vessels and diuretics that reduce swelling. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to address underlying medical conditions or deformities that are causing poor circulation in the feet.

What to Do When You Notice Your Loved One Has Purple Feet

Purple feet in the elderly can be a symptom of many medical conditions, so it is important to seek professional advice if you or a loved one is experiencing this condition. With proper lifestyle changes, medications, and compression garments, purple feet can be effectively managed and the elderly can continue to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

If you notice you or your elderly loved one has purple feet, it’s important to speak with the doctor right away. They will likely perform a physical exam and order some tests in order to determine what is causing the purple discoloration. Depending on the diagnosis, they may prescribe medications or suggest lifestyle changes that could help improve circulation.


It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of purple feet in order to ensure your elderly loved one is receiving proper treatment. If you notice your loved one’s feet turning purple or blue, contact their doctor right away so they can determine the underlying cause and provide the best possible treatment. With prompt medical attention, your loved one can find relief from their purple feet and enjoy an improved quality of life.

This article is intended to provide information only and not medical advice. If you think your elderly loved one may have purple feet, be sure to contact their doctor right away. Working with your healthcare provider will ensure the best possible outcome and improved quality of life for your loved one.

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