Why are my nails blue? – symptom


If you've ever noticed that your nails turn blue, this could be due to a condition known as cyanosis . These blue and purple nails are the result of a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. Discoloration due to cyanosis can affect everyone from adults to children, even newborns.

This discoloration could mean you have abnormal hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to your blood cells. It may be associated with other conditions that affect your central nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems.

Also, low temperatures can lead to purple nails . As the temperature drops, the blood vessels constrict, preventing the oxygenated blood from reaching the fingertips.

The cause can vary depending on where the discoloration is on the body, how long it lasts, and if you have other underlying medical conditions that may or may not have been diagnosed.

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Types of cyanosis

Cyanosis is a symptom of hypoxemia that occurs when you don't get enough oxygen into your bloodstream. It is common in people with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) , but it can also be caused by conditions such as pneumonia or asthma, among others.

Hypoxia is diagnosed by measuring oxygen levels in the blood using an arterial blood gas (ABG) test or pulse oximetry with a sensor that measures oxygen in the blood .

Cyanosis and the associated purple and blue discoloration of the skin develop when the level of oxygen in the arterial blood decreases .

Cyanosis in newborns

Cyanosis occurs in infants and young children. Peripheral cyanosis can be a benign discoloration of a child's hands and feet. Transient central cyanosis is common and can resolve within 5 to 10 minutes after birth. However, long-term central cyanosis can be severe. Discoloration of the lips and tongue may indicate that the child has not received enough pulmonary blood flow or oxygen consumption, or other serious problems .


Apart from these other types of cyanosis is pseudocyanosis. This is when the color change to blue is the result of external causes that can mimic a lack of oxygen in the body's blood. For example, there have been examples of ingestion of metals like iron causing this .

Also, the use of certain medications and toxins can cause the body to mimic central and peripheral cyanosis due to lack of oxygenation in the bloodstream .

Cyanosis symptoms

To be clear, cyanosis is not a disease, but a symptom of other conditions. Your blood changes color from a healthy bright red to a deep red when it lacks the oxygen it needs. When this happens, your skin will turn blue.

Although the nails are one of the most common areas of the body where the effects of cyanosis are most noticeable, it can affect other parts of the body. This applies to the tongue, lips, skin, ears, and gums.

If the blue and purple discoloration is accompanied by other symptoms, such as bumpy fingers, chest pain, or shortness of breath, this can help determine exactly what type of cyanosis you have.

When to call your healthcare provider

You should call 911 or seek emergency medical attention if cyanosis symptoms are accompanied by:

  • Chest pain
  • Profuse sweating
  • Clammy skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness or fainting

These can all be signs of a medical emergency, such as a heart attack or pulmonary embolism.


If you have cyanosis and notice signs of blue or purple discoloration on your fingertips or other areas of your body, this could be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition or nothing at all.

Cyanosis is very diverse. Nails may turn blue only temporarily after a rapid transition to lower temperatures, leading to constriction of blood vessels.

More serious underlying diseases can manifest as persistent cyanosis as a result of lack of oxygen entering the bloodstream, restriction of blood flow in blood vessels, or decreased cardiac output. This will mean more serious health problems that will require the attention of your healthcare provider and medical team.

Some of the main causes of cyanosis that are destroyed by the organ system of the body are:

Organ system State
Lungs Asthma , bronchiolitis , COPD , croup, high altitude, extensive pneumonia , interstitial lung disease (ILD) , pulmonary edema , pulmonary embolism
Heart Congenital heart disease , congestive heart failure , shock
Blood vessel Cold exposure, peripheral arterial disease , pulmonary arteriovenous malformations, Raynaud's phenomenon
Blood cells Carbon monoxide poisoning , methemoglobinemia, polycythemia vera , sulfhemoglobinemia


To diagnose cyanosis, your healthcare provider will divide the process into three steps:

Physical exam

They will check for bumps to the fingers , which could indicate congenital heart defects, bronchiectasis, and chronic lung infection. You will be examined for any other cardiac or respiratory symptoms.

Medical history review

Your healthcare provider will check your family history. You will also be asked about the time of onset of symptoms. This will help the doctor know how and when it might have started, and even determine if it is a congenital or acquired condition.

Oxygen in blood

They will perform blood oxygen tests in the form of arterial blood gas (ABG) tests, which will show the partial pressure of dissolved oxygen in your blood and the saturation of your hemoglobin levels. They will also perform pulse oximetry, which will measure the absorption of light at two wavelengths that correspond to oxyhemoglobin and deoxyhemoglobin.

Pulse oximetry should be done with the ABG test because it can give false positive results in people with peripheral cyanosis. This is because abnormal hemoglobin levels are not detected by a pulse oximetry test. The combination of these two parameters will provide the most accurate estimate possible.

In addition to these three evaluations, additional imaging studies and tests may be performed. This may be due to your healthcare provider's initial findings and confirmation of the suspected causes of your cyanosis.

Get the word of drug information

As you can imagine, this blue tint on the nails or other parts of the body can appear for a number of reasons. Cyanosis is very diverse and its treatment depends on the underlying cause. Cyanosis is not a disease in itself.

Skin discoloration associated with cyanosis can be a temporary phenomenon caused by cold weather. That being said, one shouldn't dismiss it as a minor health problem, yes. You don't know the reason.

As with any strange and unusual symptoms you may experience, see your doctor. Do this even if the cyanosis has gone away on its own. Persistent cyanosis suggests a more serious condition and requires a proper medical evaluation.

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