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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Cyanosis


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Cyanosis is a blue or purple discoloration of the skin that can occur when there is not enough oxygen in a person's blood or tissues.

What is going on in the body?

Cyanosis is usually caused by either serious lung or heart disease, or circulation problems. Cases due to circulation problems are more common and often less serious. They usually affect the ends of the arms or legs or both. When cyanosis is due to heart or lung disease, it often affects the face and the arms and legs.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Cyanosis may be caused by a number of conditions, including:

  • narrowing of the arteries or veins in the affected area, such as narrowed arteries from atherosclerosis
  • exposure to cold temperature
  • Berger's disease, which is thought to be caused by smoking and results in cyanosis of the hands and feet.
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), such as emphysema, which are usually caused by smoking
  • congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood throughout the body
  • deep vein thrombosis, or a blood clot, which usually occurs in the leg and causes only the affected leg to have cyanosis
  • severe asthma, choking, or blockage in the windpipe
  • lung cancer
  • pneumonia, which is an infection in the lungs
  • cystic fibrosis, an inherited condition that affects the lungs and other organs
  • pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the lungs
  • Raynaud's disease, a condition that occurs for unknown reasons and can cause cyanosis and pain in the fingers
  • shock, which is very poor circulation throughout the body
  • congenital heart disease, or heart defects present at birth
  • other serious lung and heart diseases


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    Cyanosis: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed: 07/24/01

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