Synonyms in a broader sense

  • bluish discoloration of the skin
  • blue lips

Definition of cyanosis

cyanosis indicates a blue or purple discoloration of the skin, usually on the lips or under the fingernails.


The purple or bluish color in cyanosis is mostly due to a lack of oxygen in the blood in the affected area.
The red blood pigment hemoglobin, which is otherwise responsible for a healthy rosy color of the skin, turns bluish as soon as it has no longer bound oxygen.
The reasons for the lack of oxygen in the blood in cyanosis can be many. A central and a peripheral (i.e. external) cause of cyanosis can be roughly distinguished.
Central causes usually include a disease of the heart or lungs. For example, the oxygen loading of the blood in the lungs may be disturbed, for example due to pulmonary hypertension, or a reduced heart rate may not pump enough blood into the body to supply it with sufficient oxygen.
A malformation, a "hole" in the heart (ventricular septal defect), which leads to the mixing of oxygen-poor with oxygen-rich blood, with "used" blood being pumped back into the body's circulation is possible.

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In principle, any disorder that affects breathing can also become one central cyanosis to lead.

  • Choking on foreign objects
  • Asthma attacks
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after many years Smoke
  • Water in the lungs (edema)

are just a selection of the possible causes that the lung affect. The blue coloration in the case of severe hypothermia can also be counted as central cyanosis. Here, the blood vessels in the extremities contract to keep more warm blood in the core of the body.

In the central cyanosis Large parts of the body are usually affected - lips, tongue and oral mucosa, as well as toes and fingers on all limbs.

Causes a peripheral cyanosis are mostly Occlusions of blood vessels which then disrupt the flow of blood to the affected part of the body. Closures of larger sizes come into question here Arteries by blood clots or mechanical compression (binding) or clogging of the finest vessels, the capillaries, as can occur with some autoimmune diseases. The small amount of blood that continues to reach the sub-perfused area does not carry enough oxygen for a correct supply, is "discharged" faster and thus causes a blue coloration.
Various poisons (chemicals such as nitrites) can also ensure that the blood can no longer transport enough oxygen and is “discharged” faster. However, this does not result in typical cyanosis, as the skin tends to greyish color accepts.

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In addition to the characteristic blue coloration of the skin, people with cyanosis (especially if the cause is central) often feel a strong feeling of cold.

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