Close look on cyanosis

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Cyanosis is characterized by bluish lips or skin. This is due to the low blood oxygen levels or poor circulation. It might be an indication of a serious condition, thus it is vital to seek medical care.

If the blood becomes deprived of oxygen, it changes color from bright red to darker in color which makes the skin and lips appear bluish.

What should I do?

It is vital to seek medical care if cyanosis occurs gradually or involves the toes, hands or feet.

Call for emergency assistance or bring the individual to the nearest emergency department right away if an adult or child is suddenly turning bluish in color, especially if other symptoms are present such as chest pain or difficulty breathing. This might be an indication of a life-threatening condition.

It is vital to seek medical care if cyanosis occurs gradually or involves the toes, hands or feet. This might be due to a less serious issue with the blood circulation but still requires assessment by the doctor.

Common causes of cyanosis

Some of the main causes of cyanosis include the following:

Hands, feet or limbs

If the toes, fingers or limbs turned bluish and feel cold, it is called as peripheral cyanosis. Poor circulation is usually the cause which results from:

  • Raynaud’s phenomenon – the blood supply to certain body parts, usually the toes and fingers is briefly reduced if exposed to cold temperatures
  • Peripheral arterial disease – there is accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries that limits the blood supply to the legs
  • Blood clot
  • Beta-blockers

Skin and lips

If the skin or lips have a bluish tinge, it is called as central cyanosis and generally an indication of having low oxygen level in the blood.


  • Lung infections such as bronchiolitis, pneumonia or whooping cough
  • Worsening of a long-standing condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome or acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Near drowning or drowning


  • Croup
  • Choking
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Epiglottitis


  • Congenital heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Cardiac arrest

Other causes

  • At high altitudes
  • Exposure to cold water or air
  • Seizures that last for a long time
  • Issues with the blood such as abnormal hemoglobin or polycythemia (high concentration of red blood cells)

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