Cyanosis causes the body to develop a bluish tint to it, due to inadequate oxygen in the bloodstream. It can affect the entire body or be limited to certain areas.
Watch this lesson to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What Is Cyanosis?
Cyanosis is a condition that causes the skin and mucous membranes, inside of mouth, edges of eyes, etc., to turn bluish in color due to too little oxygen in the bloodstream. Let’s take a look at why this happens.The blood is responsible for transporting oxygen around the body so that tissues and cells can function properly. It also transports waste materials away from these same tissues and cells so that they can be removed from the body.
Our blood has four components to it: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. And the red blood cells are responsible for carrying the oxygen molecules. Specifically, the oxygen binds to the hemoglobin of the red blood cell, which is naturally red in color. Well-oxygenated blood gives the body its normal reddish or pinkish coloration. If the blood is carrying too little oxygen, it is no longer bright red in color.
Instead, it becomes a reddish-purple, and this gives the skin an outwardly blue coloring.
Causes of Cyanosis
Cyanosis is caused by too little oxygen in the blood, and this can happen slowly or gradually over time or very quickly. If cyanosis is limited to one area of the body, it could be caused by a blood clot or some type of blockage preventing blood from flowing to that part of the body.
If this happens, the limbs are usually affected, and this is called peripheral cyanosis. If the whole body is affected, it’s known as central cyanosis. Central cyanosis is most often caused by problems in the lungs or in the airways leading to the lungs, or because of heart problems. Let’s look at some of the specific causes.
- Cyanosis may be caused by lung problems, such as pulmonary embolism, drowning, high altitude, bronchiolitis, bronchitis, long-term conditions like COPD, asthma, or pneumonia.
- Cyanosis may be caused by problems in the airways leading to the lungs, such as choking, croup, epiglottis, or holding the breath too long.
- Cyanosis may be caused by heart problems, such as congenital defects, heart failure, or cardiac arrest.
- Other possible causes of cyanosis include drug overdose, hypothermia, seizures, toxicity poisoning (specifically cyanide), or a blood abnormality. For example, the body may produce too few red blood cells or the cells may be unable to absorb oxygen.
The primary symptom of cyanosis is a blue coloration of the skin, mucous membranes, or fingernail beds. If the underlying cause is serious and potentially life-threatening, symptoms may also include difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, chest pains, mental confusion, fever, dark-colored mucus, fatigue, headaches, or enlarging of the skin underneath the fingernails.
Cyanosis is a symptom of another condition.
The underlying condition needs to be identified and addressed before cyanosis will go away. It can help to heat the affected areas to promote blood flow, and sometimes oxygen is administered to ensure the person is receiving enough to function. Typically, once the underlying cause is treated, the symptoms of cyanosis will cease.
Cyanosis is a condition where the skin or mucous membranes turn blue in color because the blood isn’t carrying enough oxygen.
This can be caused slowly by conditions like progressive heart disease, or it can occur suddenly by conditions like a blood clot. The most prominent symptom is the bluish coloration of the skin, but other symptoms may occur if the underlying cause is serious. Treating cyanosis requires treating the underlying cause, but oxygen therapy and warming the affected areas to promote blood flow may help in the short term.