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Learn about your blue skin, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your blue skin from our A.I. Symptom Checker. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Your Blue Skin May Also be Known as:
Blue fingernails
Blue hands
Blue in the face
Cyanosis
Face turns blue
Lips are blue
Skin color change
Turning blue

Blue Skin Symptoms

Symptoms that can be associated with blue skin include:

Blue Skin Causes Overview

Insufficient blood flow

If not enough blood is being delivered to the extremities, the resulting lack of oxygen can cause the skin to turn blue.

  • Blood vessel constriction : Intermittent constriction of small blood vessels in the extremities can cause blue skin. This may be triggered in the hands by exposure to the cold, in which case the skin will turn first white, then blue, then red (Raynaud's disease).
  • Arterial blockage : A clot blocking an artery can stop blood from flowing to an extremity, such as one of the feet.

Insufficient oxygen

In some conditions, blue skin occurs because the blood is carrying an abnormally low amount of oxygen.

  • Heart conditions : Structural abnormalities in the heart can cause blood with low oxygen content to be pumped to the rest of the body instead of entering the lungs to pick up oxygen. Inherited conditions are commonly diagnosed in infancy or early childhood.
  • Respiratory conditions : If the lungs are not functioning correctly, the body will not be able to get all of the oxygen it needs. This could be caused by an acute problem or an exacerbation of a chronic condition such as COPD.
  • High altitude : The lower oxygen content in the air at high altitudes can cause a condition characterized by bluish skin, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
  • Abnormal hemoglobin : Hemoglobin is the molecule that carries most of the oxygen in the blood. It can take on an abnormal and less functional form, resulting in decreased oxygen delivery to the body.

Medications or supplements

  • Amiodarone : This medication is used for certain heart conditions and can cause blue skin in areas that are exposed to the sun.
  • Silver colloid : Taking silver colloid for a long period of time can cause silver to deposit in the skin, resulting in a blue color, particularly in areas that are exposed to the sun.

Skin conditions

  • Birthmarks : Some types of skin marks that are present early in life have a blue color.
  • Moles : Some moles have a bluish appearance.

Injury

A fall or bump can result in a bruise, where small blood vessels are damaged and leak blood (ecchymosis). The blood initially appears as a bluish color under the skin.

Top 10 Blue Skin Causes

  1. 1.Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (Copd) Exacerbation

    A COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) exacerbation is a worsening of your COPD, causing you to struggle for breathe. This is often caused by an infection in the lungs.

    A COPD exacerbation requires urgent care. If you are having trouble breathing, go to the ER immediately. For less urgent cases, seeing the doctor the next day is very advised.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, wheezing, productive cough, worsening cough, trouble sleeping
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  2. 2.Severe Asthma Attack

    A severe asthma attack makes it incredibly hard to breathe and is a medical emergency. If possible, use a rescue inhaler ASAP.

    This is a serious issue so proceed to the closest emergency room for treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    being severely ill, wheezing, shortness of breath at rest, cough with dry or watery sputum, irritability
    Symptoms that always occur with severe asthma attack:
    shortness of breath at rest, being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  3. 3.Bacterial Pneumonia

    Bacterial pneumonia is the infection of the lungs with bacteria (as opposed to a fungus or a virus).

    You should go see a doctor within the next day since this diagnosis requires a chest X-ray in addition to a doctor's assessment. Treatment with antibiotics is important to keeping the infection under control, which can become dangerous if it spreads or worsens within the lungs.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, cough, headache, loss of appetite, shortness of breath
    Symptoms that always occur with bacterial pneumonia:
    cough
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  4. 4.Aspiration Pneumonia

    Aspiration Pneumonia occurs when food, saliva, liquids, or vomit is breathed into the lungs or airways leading to the lungs, causing an infection.

    Going to your doctor is important, since diagnosing Aspiration Pneumonia requires a chest x-ray and a blood test. Given the possibility of the infection worsening, starting antibiotic treatment as soon as possible is really key.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, fever, coughing up green or yellow phlegm
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  5. 5.Sudden Cardiac Arrest

    Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart develops an irregular beat that causes it to stop beating.

    You should go to the ER immediately since the longer the heart goes without blood, the worse the irreversible damage will be. Hurry!

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    being severely ill, constant chest pain, current loss of consciousness, pale skin all over
    Symptoms that always occur with sudden cardiac arrest:
    current loss of consciousness
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service

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  6. 6.Interstitial Lung Disease

    Interstitial lung disease is a group of lung disorders in which the deep lung tissues become inflamed and build up scar tissue (similar to a scab which develops on skin after a cut). Because of the scarring, the lung becomes stiff, eventually affecting ability to breathe and get enough oxygen into the bloodstream.

    You should visit your primary care physician. Interstitial lung disease is treated according to the cause of the scarring, usually with prescription medication.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    dry cough, shortness of breath, fingers looking plump
    Symptoms that always occur with interstitial lung disease:
    dry cough
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Foreign Body Aspiration

    Foreign body aspiration can be a life-threatening emergency. An aspirated solid or semisolid object may lodge in the larynx or trachea. If the object is large enough to cause nearly complete obstruction of the airway, asphyxia may rapidly cause death.

    Call 911 immediately. The Heimlich maneuver should be attempted if there is a trained practitioner.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    cough, fever, shortness of breath, cough with dry or watery sputum, wheezing
    Symptoms that always occur with foreign body aspiration:
    swallowing of something potentially harmful
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  8. 8.Bronchiectasis

    Bronchiectasis is destruction and widening of the large airways. Mucus builds up in these airways and can get infected, causing a pneumonia.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours if you might have an infection. Diagnosis involves a chest X-ray, sampling phlegm, blood tests, and other possible tests. Treatment is mostly coaching, actually, on exercises that strengthen your ability to cough up phlegm.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, runny nose, fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Myocarditis

    The myocardium is the muscular tissue that makes up the walls of the heart, allowing it to contract and push blood throughout the body. Myocarditis is the condition when this muscular tissue becomes inflamed, often as a result of an infection, causing the heart to struggle to pump blood.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will confirm the diagnosis by examining your heart with a stethoscope and an ECG (electrocardiogram), and by performing a blood test to check for infection. Myocarditis is treated with pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medicines, as well as medication to treat the underlying infection.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, muscle aches, chest pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  10. 10.Eisenmenger Syndrome (Tardive Cyanosis)

    Eisenmenger syndrome is a complication due to a heart defect. The defect causes increased blood flow to the lungs instead of the body.

    You should visit your primary care physician, who can prescribe medications that improve your quality of life. Surgery is usually not recommended when the syndrome has developed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, racing heart beat, shortness of breath on exertion, shortness of breath when lying down, lightheadedness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Blue Skin Treatments and Relief

Many causes of blue skin can be addressed at a regular appointment rather than in the emergency room. However, you may need urgent treatment, such as supplemental oxygen, if there is insufficient oxygen in your blood. In addition, if your blue skin is caused by interrupted blood flow to an extremity, immediate treatment is necessary to avoid permanent damage or even loss of the limb.

Seek emergency treatment if:

  • You have sudden onset of blue discoloration of an extremity, particularly if the extremity is also painful or tingly.
  • Your lips or tongue have turned blue.
  • You are experiencing chest pain.
  • You are having difficulty breathing.
  • You have headache, confusion, or dizziness.

In some cases, even though emergency treatment isn't necessary, you may need medical evaluation and treatment.

Make an appointment with your medical provider if:

  • You are bruising more easily than usual or without any known injury.
  • You have started any new medications recently.
  • Your hands are becoming discolored whenever they get cold.
  • You have a previously diagnosed heart or respiratory condition.
  • You have a blue mole that has changed in color, shape, or size.

Your medical provider may prescribe one of the following treatments, depending on the cause of the blue skin symptoms:

  • Stopping a medication that could be causing the blue skin.
  • Starting a medication to improve blood flow to the hands.
  • Adding or adjusting treatment for an underlying chronic medical condition.
  • Referral to a specialist as needed for a heart or respiratory condition.
  • Removal of a mole.

Some home treatments may help with blue skin.

  • Avoid the cold if you find that it is causing your hands to turn blue.
  • Descend to a lower location if you recently arrived somewhere with a high altitude.
  • Cut down on smoking or quit altogether.
  • For a bruise, ice and compression can help prevent swelling.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Blue Skin

  • Q.How long has your fatigue been going on?
  • Q.Is your fatigue getting any better or worse?
  • Q.Is your fatigue constant or come-and-go?
  • Q.How fatigued are you?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our blue skin symptom checker.

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Blue Skin Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced blue skin have also experienced:

    • 4% Fatigue
    • 3% Muscle Aches
    • 2% Joint Pain

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