Cyanosis is not a disease and it is a condition. The skin color of the lips and the fingertips becomes light bluish in color at the time of cyanosis. This condition is an indication of the low oxygen levels in the blood.
Blood takes a bluish glow if it does not have adequate levels of oxygen. Blood under normal condition is known to be bright red in color owing to the protein molecules called hemes.
Though when the oxygen levels in the RBC lowers down, it can cause bluish coloration on the limbs and lips. This condition is known as cyanosis. Cyanosis is a symptom indicating the body cannot deliver adequate amount of oxygenated blood.
Very cold weather can also narrow the blood vessels reducing the oxygen supply causing bluish glow temporarily. But that condition is not cyanosis and it can be resolved by gentle massaging of affected areas.
Causes of Cyanosis
Less amount of oxygen level in the blood is the major cause for cyanosis. Some diseases such as congestive heart failure, sepsis shock, narrowing of blood vessels, pneumonia, and carbon monoxide poisoning, peripheral vascular disease, exposure to cold temperature, pulmonary embolism, COPD and high respiratory tract infections can cause cyanosis.
Cardiac shunt, lung diseases and infection, polycythemia Vera, and Beta blocking drugs can also trigger cyanosis in adults.
Diagnosis of Cyanosis
The doctor would first complete physical examination based on the symptoms of blue discoloration of nails and lips. The doctor would measure the carbon dioxide levels and oxygen levels in the blood using noninvasive pulse oximeter. ECG, Chest X-ray or echo test and hemoglobin levels and arterial blood gas test may also be done.
Symptoms of Cyanosis
Blue coloration of the lips and fingertips are the major identifications of cyanosis. However there can be some accompanied symptoms if there is underlying cause.
Patients who are having lungs and heart diseases can develop cyanosis gradually. Like people who are taking drugs that contain nitrates and dapsone can develop cyanosis over years.
Different symptoms related to cyanosis include rapid heartbeat, palpitation, chest pain (ranging from dull to severe chest tightening), dyspnea and blue discoloration of the skin on the extremities.
Treatment of Cyanosis
Emergency treatment is to be provided if the patient condition is unstable. Oxygen therapy is started very early to restore the oxygen levels in blood. Treatment for cyanosis involves finding the underlying factors or disease causing it. Lungs and heart problems should be addressed and promptly treated.