Acrocyanosis is a rare condition where blood does not receive enough oxygen and causes the extremities to turn a bluish color. Read this lesson to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and possible treatment options for this peculiar condition!

What Is Acrocyanosis?

Acrocyanosis is a vascular disorder of the peripheral system characterized by bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes. This bluish color comes from a loss of oxyhemoglobin (or, a loss of oxygen in the blood). This condition normally effects the hands and feet and it can be extremely painful or not painful at all. Acrocyanosis is not a common condition, and symptoms can develop after exposure to cold weather or persist all the time. If we look at the components of the word itself, akron means extremity and kyanos means blue; hence, a bluish discoloration of the extremities.

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An example of acrocyanosis in the hands. Note the bluish coloration of the hand on the left.

What Causes Acrocyanosis?

Acrocyanosis may be caused by a number of reasons, but two are most commonly to blame. First, a person may have cardiac (heart) or pulmonary (lung) abnormalities, affecting the amount of oxygen that is carried throughout the body. Second, a person may have localized tissue deoxygenation problems. Acrocyanosis is most commonly found in children and young adults under the age of 30, and variables such as body weight, occupation, and climate can affect its prevalence. It is more commonly reported in females, people with neurological deficits, and people with emotional or mental disorders. It has also been reported in newborns (both premature and full-term babies).

Signs of Acrocyanosis

The most common symptom of acrocyanosis is the bluish coloration in hand, feet, and possibly parts of the face. Affected parts of the body may be cold or clammy to the touch, and slight swelling may occur. Most patients do not feel any pain, and the discoloration is the only symptom they experience, though in severe cases, ulceration (a sore on the skin or mucous membrane) and gangrene (death of body tissue) may develop! Symptoms may mirror those of similar diseases, such as Raynaud’s phenomenon, perniosis, and erythromelalgia.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Acrocyanosis can be properly diagnosed by a health care professional by analyzing personal history and conducting a physical examination. Measuring the oxygen content of the blood will quickly determine if the blood is properly oxygenated. While there is no standard treatment, avoiding the cold, wearing gloves or slippers, quitting smoking, and certain alpha blocker drugs may help alleviate symptoms. Changes in nutrition, hygiene, clothing types, and general lifestyle may also help lessen the negative effects of acrocyanosis. In rare cases, medication can be prescribed, but they are not always effective. Typically, acrocyanosis does not have serious complications and there is no cure; however, early diagnosis is the best way to ensure the patient lives a long and happy life.

Lesson Summary

Acrocyanosis is a condition where the blood is not properly oxygenated, thus producing a bluish discoloration of parts of the body, particularly the hands, feet, and portions of the face (the extremities). Most cases are painless, and the common symptoms are cold or clammy extremities, the bluish color, and slight swelling. In rare cases, more serious symptoms occur, so it is best to consult a doctor to ensure proper treatment and care. Often, slippers or gloves, proper clothing, and minor lifestyle changes can be enough to mitigate the negative effects of acrocyanosis.

Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.