The normal color of human skin varies from dark brown, black and to the light shade. This all depends on the genetic makeup of a person. The blood flowing in the tiny vessels (capillaries) within the skin as well as melanin pigment in the skin layers provide color to the skin. Skin pigmentation can change depending on the sun exposure, it is normal phenomenon. But if your skin is turning blue it is certainly not normal.
There are many medical conditions, exposure to chemicals and toxic agents that can cause discoloration of skin, nails and mucus membrane.Cyanosis is a medical term used for bluish discoloration of skin and mucus membrane. It is caused as a result of insufficient oxygen saturation in the blood. Let us know the various medical conditions that may cause bluish discoloration of skin.
What Are The Causes Of Blue Discoloration Of Skin?
There are many medical conditions that may cause abnormal bluish discoloration of skin and mucus membrane. In medical terminology skin turning blue is referred as cyanosis. Let us know the underlying pathophysiology leading to cyanosis. Each and every cell of the body needs oxygen for its survival.The red blood cells in the blood carry oxygen that you inhale from air. The blood flowing through artery and its tributary capillaries carry oxygenated blood.
The red blood cells are bright red and thus it gives pinkish hue to the skin, nail and mucus membrane. However, blood that lacks oxygen or has less amount of oxygen is dark bluish red. Therefore when low oxygenated blood flows through the capillaries, your skin appear bluish. This condition is known as cyanosis. It is actually a sign of an underlying cause.
Depending on the cause cyanosis can be of two types peripheral cyanosis and central cyanosis. Peripheral cyanosis occurs when the blood flow and oxygen supply is restricted to the limbs due to an obstruction or an injury in the vascular pathway. Central cyanosis occurs when the defect lies in the lungs or heart. Below are common conditions that may cause low saturation of oxygen in blood.
Cyanosis can develop at any stage of life. It may be present in just born infant or in an adult. The causes may vary from person to person.
Causes due to lung pathology:
- Suffocation caused due to drowning etc.
- Obstruction in the pulmonary artery due to a clot in the vessel.
- Low oxygen level at high altitude can cause difficulty in breathing. There is low saturation of oxygenation resulting in bluish discoloration of skin.
- Obstruction in the airflow caused due to lodging of a foreign body in the air passage. It is more common in children who accidentally gulp a small object which can get lodged in the airways.
- Chronic lung diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema, asthma.
- Lung infection such as pneumonia.
- Breath holding spasm in infants and children.
- Croup due to pertusis infection.
Conditions related to heart leading to cyanosis:
- Congenital heart defects such as Fallot’s tetrology. In this condition the skin of baby turns blue when he cries or exerts during bowel movement. They become breathless and sometime lose consciousness.
- Congestive cardiac failure.
- Myocardial infarction.
- Hypovelemic shock
- Raynaud’s disease
- Methemoglobinemia caused due to toxic effect of chemicals, drugs etc. In this condition blood is not able to carry oxygen.
- Exposure to cold air and water.
- Status epilepticus; seizure that lasts for a long period.
Accumulation of silver in the body and skin due to too much exposure to silver dust or ingestion of silver compounds. The condition is referred as Argyria.