Skin discoloration - bluish - Treatment
Lips - bluish; Fingernails - bluish; Cyanosis; Bluish lips and fingernails; Bluish skin
For cyanosis caused by exposure to cold or Raynaud's phenomenon, dress warmly when going outside or stay in a well-heated room.
Call your health care provider if:
Bluish skin (cyanosis) can be a sign of many serious medical problems and should be taken seriously. Call or visit your health care provider.
For adults, call your doctor or 911 if you have bluish skin and:
- Your breathing is getting harder, faster, or you cannot get a deep breath.
- You need to lean forward when sitting to breathe.
- You are using muscles around the ribs to get enough air.
- You have chest pain.
- You are having headaches more often than usual.
- You feel sleepy or confused.
- You have a fever.
- You are coughing up dark mucus.
For children, call the doctor or 911 if your child has bluish skin and:
- Is having a hard time breathing
- The child's chest muscles are pulling in with each breath
- Is breathing faster than 50 to 60 breaths per minute (when not crying)
- Is making a grunting noise
- Is sitting with shoulders hunched over
- Is very tired
- Is not moving around very much
- Has a limp or floppy body
- The nostrils are flaring out when the child breathes
- Loses his or her appetite
- Is irritable
- Has trouble sleeping
What to expect at your health care provider's office:
Your health care provider will perform a physical examination, which includes listening to your breathing and heart sounds. In emergency situations (such as shock), you will be stabilized first.
Medical history questions may include:
- When did the bluish skin color develop?
- Did it develop suddenly?
- Has it been developing slowly?
- Are your lips blue?
- Are your nailbeds blue?
- Is your body blue all over?
- Have you been exposed to cold?
- Have you suddenly gone to a high altitude?
- Have you breathed in anything poisonous?
- What other symptoms do you have?
- Do you have difficulty breathing?
- Do you have ankle, foot, or leg swelling?
- Do you have a cough?
- Do you have chest pain?
Tests that may be performed include:
For shortness of breath and cyanosis, you may receive oxygen.
- Reviewed last on: 5/25/2011
- David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Kraft M. Approach to the patient with respiratory disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 83.
Schwartzstein RM, Adams L. Dyspnea. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 28.
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