Idiopathic livedo reticularis is a skin condition characterized by a bluish-red, mottled network pattern on the legs, forearms, and trunk. The skin within the mottled areas is very pale. It occurs when blood vessels supplying blood to the upper layer of skin are not supplying adequate amounts of blood so the vessels around them dilate to compensate for the reduced blood flow. Since the blood is deoxygenated it has a bluish tint.
Idiopathic livedo reticularis is most common in young and middle-aged women. Symptoms occur in winter when the skin is exposed to cold temperatures but the blood vessels may become permanently dilated even after the exposure subsides. The skin may become numb or tingly, and inflamed.
Cutis marmorata telangiectatica congenita is a form of livedo reticularis that is present in newborns. About half of these infants have other abnormalities such as extremity overgrowth or undergrowth, enlarged heads, delayed development, and glaucoma. They most likely have other vascular malformations and will develop blood-filled growths on the skin soon after birth. As the child grows, the skin gradually improves but the other congenital abnormalities require long-term care.
Secondary livedo reticularis is caused by vasculitis, a condition where the blood vessels are inflamed, or by obstructed blood vessels. Vasculitis is a symptom of several diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and tuberculosis. Obstructions can be caused by calcium deposits, cholesterol blockages, or blood clots.
Sneddon's syndrome is a vascular disease that causes a person to have livedo reticularis in addition to severe neurological problems. Reduced blood flow to the brain causes lesions to form in the central nervous system leading to headaches, dizziness, and strokes. Sneddon's syndrome causes memory and concentration problems and leads to early-onset dementia in some people. Those who suffer from the condition are placed on Warfarin to prevent blood coagulation that leads to strokes.