What Is the Treatment for Cyanosis?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 30 June 2014
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Treatment for cyanosis typically involves addressing the underlying condition that causes a bluish tint to the skin, nail beds, or nasal passages. Doctors usually order tests for respiratory or circulation problems to determine the proper treatment for cyanosis. They might also explore exposure to poisons or extreme cold when devising a treatment plan.

Cyanosis develops when oxygen levels in the blood fall too low. Hemoglobin in blood gives it a bright, red color and permits oxygen to circulate throughout the body. Oxygen molecules adhere to hemoglobin, carrying necessary oxygen to arteries and smaller capillaries. Once this vital gas has been distributed throughout the circulatory system, blood returns to the lungs.

Treatment for cyanosis caused by low temperature might be as simple as warming the patient to restore blood flow. If the condition stems from exposure to lead, silver products, or chemical poisoning, eliminating contact with these elements typically represents the first step in treatment. If lack of air or submersion caused cyanosis, cardiopulmonary resuscitation might be successful if started within a few minutes.

Several lung problems might lead to skin turning blue. Treatment for cyanosis might address asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or croup. Once the medical condition improves, cyanosis typically goes away because oxygen levels become adequate. The first signs of cyanosis from respiratory distress might include a blue tint to the nose, feet, ears, and around the mouth. In some patients, toenails and fingernails appear blue when oxygen does not reach extremities.


Breathing might also become depressed by medications classified as sedatives. Treatment for cyanosis caused by a drug overdose, or mixing narcotics with alcohol, might include pumping drugs from the stomach or administering an antidote to counteract effects of the drug. These patients typically receive oxygen to bring levels back to normal.

Heart problems could also provoke symptoms of cyanosis. If the heart cannot pump sufficient blood to oxygenate the body, treatment for cyanosis requires identifying the root cause. Medication to relax arteries, or to thin the consistency of blood, might restore adequate blood flow. In some cases, surgery might be needed to bypass a blockage that restricts circulation.

In addition to bluish skin, some patients experience weakness and fainting when cyanosis sets in. They might feel lightheaded as the first sign of low oxygen levels in the blood. In mild cases, the disorder might be hard to diagnose. Physicians commonly measure pulse oxygen and blood gas levels to augment clinical observations. Chest X-rays and electrocardiograms might identify heart conditions causing low oxygen levels.


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