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Cyanosis – Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

What is Cyanosis?

This is a circumstance where the fingers, toes as well as lips look blue. It occurs in a number of individuals who have heart defects which are normally congenital and affects the blood with abnormal circulation.

With normal circulation, blood which is low in oxygen enters the heart on the right side. It is this side of the heart where the blood is propelled to the lungs where the blood gathers oxygen. From there, the blood enters the left side of the heart, which sends the blood which is now oxygen-rich to the tissues of the entire body.

In individuals with heart defects which are congenital, cyanosis happens when the defect allocates oxygen-poor blood from the heart’s right side to enter the left side in a straight line, rather than first going to the lungs to become oxygenated. While the blood is in the left area of the heart, the blood which is oxygen-poor becomes mixed with blood which is oxygen-rich to be pumped to the rest of the body.

Even though the blood which is oxygen-poor is not really blue, it is not the rich bright red color of the blood which is rich with oxygen. The oxygen-low blood is what gives the fingers, toes, as well as the lips blue color.

Cyanosis can be harmless – as in acrocyanosis of babies who are newborn – but it is normally a bad sign. Cyanosis can be caused by problems with the lungs so that not enough oxygen is reaching into the blood stream or by other problems with circulation. Circulation problems involve abnormal mixing of unoxygenated blood with blood which is carrying oxygen. Cyanosis is normally at first noted around the mouth and lips as well as perhaps the nail beds.

Cyanosis Symptoms

As already mentioned, the main symptom of cyanosis is usually seen as the bluish discoloration of the fingers, toes as well as lips.

Some children do have problems with breathing – known as dyspnea – and will assume a squatting type position after any physical activity in order to relieve the breathlessness.

Others often have spells where their bodies become all of a sudden starved for oxygen. During one of these sudden spells, the symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sudden cyanosis increase
  • Over breathing – known as hyperventilation

With infants, they may get tired or begin sweating while feeding and also may not gain the amount of weight that they should.

Fainting or syncope and pains in the chest can also occur.

Other symptoms may depend on the type of cyanotic heart disease and can involve:

  • Grayish or bluish skin
  • Reduced appetite or problems with feeding
  • Puffy face or eyes
  • Being tired all the time

Cyanosis Causes

When functioning normally, blood will return from the body and then flows thru the heart as well as the lungs. The blood then leaves the heart with the needed oxygen to provide oxygen to the tissues of the body’s.


Any type of heart defects will change this path which the blood normally flows thru the lungs and heart. This blood flow which is atypical – known as “right-to-left shunt” – will cause the blood to have less oxygen while moving thru the remainder of the body.

Heart conditions caused by cyanosis cause the skin of a child to appear blue – mostly on the fingers, toes as well as lips especially when exercising. Other heart defects can cause key problems directly after birth. Others have few problems, if any, until later in life.

Heart defects which are congenital and might cause cyanosis include:

  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Critical pulmonary valvular stenosis
  • Ebstein’s anomaly
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • Pulmonary valve atresia
  • Interrupted aortic arch
  • Pulmonic stenosis with an atrial or ventricular septal defect
  • Some forms of total anomalous pulmonary venous return
  • Total anomalous pulmonary venous return
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Tricuspid atresia which is a deformity of the tricuspid heart value
  • Transposition of the great vessels
  • Truncus arteriosus

Diseases of the heart which are cyanotic can be caused by:

  • Genetic and chromosomal syndromes, such as Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, trisomy 13, Noonan syndrome, Marfan syndrome, and Ellis-van Creveld syndrome.
  • Chemical exposure.
  • Blood sugar levels which are poorly controlled in women who have diabetes while pregnant.
  • Some prescriptions as well as OTC drugs and street meds used while pregnant.

Cyanosis can as well be caused by some situations other than those which are congenital. These conditions can include:

  • Lung disease.
  • Abnormal forms of hemoglobin.
  • Dehydration.
  • Hypoglycemia.

Cyanosis Treatment

Many infants may have to remain hospitalized after delivery in order that they can be given oxygen or put on a breathing machine. They may also receive medications to:

  • Help the pump of the heart
  • Get rid of extra fluids
  • Keep some blood vessels open
  • Treat atypical rhythms or heartbeats

The treatment which is normally used for most congenital heart disease is a surgery procedure to fix the defect. There are multiple kinds of surgical procedures which depend on the type of birth defect. This surgery might need to be immediately following birth or the surgery may be able to be postponed for months or for years.

The child might need to be prescribed water pills known as diuretics as well as other heart medications before or after surgery. It is important to follow the correct dosage. Regular follow-up with the physician is important.

Most of the children who need this heart surgery will need to receive antibiotics before as well as often after getting dental work or other medical methods. It is important that the child’s parents have clear instructions from the child’s heart physician. It is vital to have the child’s teeth regularly cleaned.

Ask the child’s physician before receiving any required immunizations. However, generally, children need to get a flu shot each year as well as maintain all other immunizations.

A number of people with these defects may require a pacemaker which is permanent.

Cyanosis Pictures

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