Skin Disorders

Skin Disorders

Skin disorders cover a wide range of conditions, some benign, some very serious, and some even a sign of another underlying illness. A skin disorder not only affects your physical health, but also your emotional well-being.


Skin CareSkin Disorders › Cyanosis


Cyanosis refers to the discoloration in the skin, usually in the fingers, toes, lips, or ears, caused by an insufficient oxygen supply in the bloodstream.  Because generally a severe cardiac or lung problem exists if cyanosis is present, generally cyanosis only occurs in the presence of other symptoms.

The blue discoloration of cyanosis is seen most readily in the beds of the fingernails and toenails, and on the lips and tongue. It often appears transiently as a result of slowed blood flow through the skin due to the cold. As such, it is not a serious symptom. However, in other cases cyanosis is a serious symptom of underlying disease.

Causes of Cyanosis

Cyanosis is caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood. Cyanosis is associated with cold temperatures, heart failure , lung diseases, and smothering. The common causes of cyanosis are:-

  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Congenital heart disease
  • High altitudes
  • Drowning or near-drowning
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Brief exposure to cold air or water
  • Shock
  • Hyaline membrane disease associated with prematurity
  • Drug overdoses (narcotics, benzodiazepines, sedatives)

Signs and symptoms of Cyanosis

Cyanosis is the physical finding of bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes which result from the presence of elevated amounts of deoxygenated hemoglobin. The detection of cyanosis is subjective and cannot be considered a sensitive indicator of arterial oxygenation. A variety of factors other than the absolute amount of deoxygenated hemoglobin may influence the subjective presence of cyanosis. Unexplained cyanosis in the setting of normal arterial oxygenation should prompt further evaluation for abnormal hemoglobin, especially methemoglobin. The recreational use of nitrites has been well described, especially in the homosexual, juvenile, and other deviant populations. These patients presenting with cyanosis should be highly suspicious for methemoglobinemia.

Cyanosis itself is not contagious. But if an infection, such as pneumonia , caused the cyanosis, this infection may be contagious. Other signs of low blood oxygen may accompany cyanosis, including feeling lightheaded or fainting.

Treatment for Cyanosis

Treatment depends on the cause of cyanosis. Infections are often treated with antibiotics. Avoiding exposure to cold temperatures or warming the body may eliminate cyanosis related to cold temperatures. Oxygen may be needed to relieve shortness of breath. Some conditions, such as heart defects present at birth, may be treated with open heart surgery. Diuretics, or water pills, and other heart medications may be needed if heart failure is the cause. Surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy may be needed for lung cancer.


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