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Cyanosis is a skin condition in which the color of the skin turns bluish or purple due to low oxygen level in the bloodstream. The main reason leading to this discoloration of skin, nails, gums, under eyes, fingertips, purple toes, and lips is deoxygenation in hemoglobin.

What is Cyanosis?

Cyanosis refers to low or lack of oxygen level in organs and the affected patient’s body parts are not getting enough oxygen to carry in red blood cells, for optimal functioning.

There are 3 types of Cyanosis: 

  • Circumoral Cyanosis occurs when blood vessels start shrinking or narrowing.
  • Peripheral Cyanosis occurs when body parts start turning blue or purple. 
  • Central Cyanosis occurs when the chest, gums, cheeks, heart, lungs, and blood vessels are infected, along with other body parts. 


There can be various cyanosis causes that are related to the heart, lungs, or central nervous system that affects the blood oxygen level – but what causes cyanosis? Let’s find out.

  • Cardiovascular Disorders 

Common heart diseases such as tetralogy of Fallot, birth defects that cause cyanosis in infants, blockage of arteries, heart attack, high blood pressure, or heart failure are some of the common factors that contribute to low oxygen supply to organs and tissues. 

  • High Chemical Exposure And Altitude

There are multiple toxic chemicals in our surroundings, and exposure to those harsh chemicals, such as carbon monoxide, cyanide, heavy metals, and pesticides affects the body. Moreover, on high altitudes, there is less oxygen supply in the air, which can cause hypoxia and cyanosis. 

  • Circulatory Disorders 

Blood circulation problems such as artery diseases, sudden shocks, venous insufficiency, and narrowed veins or blood vessels also contribute to the development of cyanosis.

  • Respiratory Disorders 

Problems related to respiration such as asthma, lung collapsation, pulmonary diseases, infection in the respiratory tract, clot of blood in arteries, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder are some of the common cyanosis causes. 


Listed below are a few common cyanosis symptoms: 

  • Confusion
  • Low alertness
  • Dizziness
  • Cold skin
  • Lightheadedness
  • Palpitation 
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Low breathing level
  • Bluish membranes inside the mouth and nose
  • Low body temperature
  • Coughing
  • Gasping
  • Fatigue


Cyanosis diagnosis involves a combination of aspects such as medical history, physical checkup, body signs, lab tests, scans, pulmonary function test, electrocardiogram test, echocardiogram, and a few other tests. 

  • Medical History

Primary care physicians ask patients about the cyanosis symptoms and severity, along with genetic and cognitive disorders. Patient’s complete medical history is reviewed before proceeding further.

  • Physical Checkup 

Primary care physicians conduct a detailed examination of the patient’s body including color, symptoms, mucous membrane, and nail colors closely – along with checking the vital signs such as heart rate, oxygen level, blood pressure, body temperature, before prescribing further tests. 

  • Lab Tests 

There are few tests of the heart, lungs, and respiratory organs that are prescribed to check the severity of the disease. The test  includes pulse oximetry test to check oxygen in blood, CBC (Complete blood Count), arterial blood gas analysis, pulmonary function tests, cardiac catheter test, blood test, blood pH test, hemoglobin parameters check test and few more tests to determine the root cause of the disease. 

  • Body Scans 

The scans required to confirm the diagnosis include chest X-rays, CT scans, electrocardiogram, and  echocardiogram. ECG plays a vital role in checking the heart activity and helping in the evaluation of the disease. 


After the cyanosis diagnosis, the primary care physician will prescribe a treatment plan accordingly – Some of the common cyanosis treatment options include:

  • Oxygen Therapy:
    Supplemental oxygen administration is the hallmark of cyanosis treatment. By increasing the oxygen content in the blood, oxygen therapy helps you get rid of the symptoms and improve oxygenation to tissues.
  • Addressing Underlying Conditions:
    Identifying and treating the underlying cyanosis causes is immensely important. Whether it’s a respiratory disorder like pneumonia or a cardiac condition like congenital heart defects, targeting the root issue is essential for effective management.
  • Medications:
    In some cases, medications may be prescribed to optimize cardiac function, reduce pulmonary hypertension, or manage underlying conditions contributing to cyanosis.
  • Surgery:
    Surgical intervention may be necessary to correct structural abnormalities causing cyanosis, such as repairing congenital heart defects or removing obstructions in the airways.
  • Lifestyle Modifications:
    Lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation and maintaining a healthy weight, can help improve overall cardiovascular health and oxygenation levels.
  • Monitoring and Follow-Up:
    Regular monitoring of oxygen saturation levels and follow-up appointments with your primary care physician are essential to track progress, adjust treatment plans, and address any emerging issues in a timely manner.

When To See A Doctor

If you are experiencing the above mentioned cyanosis symptoms including shortness of breath or a fast heartbeat, immediately seek medical attention. 

Anyone suffering from the symptoms mentioned below, visit your healthcare provider at your earliest:

  • Heart pain occurs suddenly 
  • Shortness of breath that worsens with time
  • Constant fatigue, and pain in the body
  • Diagnosed with heart or lung disease
  • Cognitive abnormalities in infants

Cyanosis is a serious disease and if proper treatment doesn’t start on time, it can lead to fatality. Know that cyanosis in infants can also occur in certain situations, if you are experiencing any cyanosis symptoms in your infant rush to your nearest medical center.


This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about Cyanosis or any other medical condition, please see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment suggestions.