What Causes Blue Skin?

There can be several reasons and health conditions that can cause the skin to turn blue. In this article, we will share the causes of Cyanosis and Argyria – both conditions cause blue skin.

Cyanosis

Several conditions can make your skin to have a bluish tint. For example, inadequate oxygen levels in the bloodstream or poor circulation of blood can cause the skin to turn blue, and varicose veins and bruises can appear blue. Cyanosis is the term medically used for this skin discoloration. It can affect your earlobes, lips, toes, nails, fingers, skin, and mucous membrane.

The bluish coloring is more common in newborns and more noticeable on light-colored skin. Cyanosis also suggests that there is something not right with particular areas of your body like the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. There are four types of Cyanosis: Mixed Cyanosis, Peripheral Cyanosis, Acrocyanosis, and Central Cyanosis.

Common Causes of Cyanosis

Cyanosis occurs when there is too little oxygen in the blood; the normal skin color is due to oxygen-rich blood, which is deep red. The color of under-oxygenated blood is bluer; therefore, it causes the skin to appear bluish purple. Cyanosis can develop quickly due to an external factor or an acute health problem. Some life-threatening causes include:

  • Shock
  • Suffocation
  • Heart failure or heart attack
  • Obstruction of the airway
  • Pulmonary embolism or a clot of blood in the lungs
  • Pulmonary hypertension or high blood pressure in the lungs
  • Methemoglobinemia – toxins and drugs cause this condition. The blood proteins become abnormal and unable to carry the oxygen.
  • Chest wall injuries or problems with lung expansion

Cyanosis can be a result of a long-term, chronic, or a worsening health condition as well. Several disorders that involve the lungs, heart, circulation, or blood will also cause Cyanosis. Some of these include:

  • Exposure to particular poisons like cyanide
  • Chronic respiratory diseases like COPD
  • Overdose of specific medications
  • Exposure to extreme cold or hypothermia, causing your body temperature to drop
  • Low count of red blood cell or severe anemia
  • Sudden airways’ infection like pneumonia
  • Raynaud’s syndrome – a condition that restricts the flow of blood to your toes and fingers

Many causes of Cyanosis are significant, including a symptom of your body getting insufficient oxygen. With time, the condition gets worse and becomes life-threatening. If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure, respiratory failure, and even death.

Argyria

It is a rare skin condition resulting from silver buildups in the body over a long period. Argyria can turn your eyes, gums, internal organs, skin, and nails blue-gray, especially the sun-exposed areas of the body. The skin color change caused by this condition is permanent.

Common Causes of Argyria

Taking dietary supplements that contain silver, working where silver particles are in the air, or using silver-containing medications, such as nasal spray or eye drops, can cause argyria. 

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver can cause argyria as it contains tiny silver particles in a liquid. The manufacturers of these products may claim they boost your immune system and treat shingles, cancer, eye problems, HIV and AIDs, and herpes, but scientific research contradicts them. 

According to the FDA, over-the-counter supplements and drugs containing silver salts or colloidal silver are ineffective and unsafe.

Some Drugs

Long term usage of silver containing medications can cause argyria. However, those medicines are not used as frequently as they used to be. The following uses of silver are among the causes of argyria:

  • Silver nitrate used to treat varicose veins and gum bleeding.
  • The colloidal silver protein used in eye drops.
  • Silver sulfadiazine used to prevent burns and wound infection.
  • Silver acetate used in products that helps quit smoking.

On the Job

Individuals who work with silver for an extended period also likely to get argyria. If you work in silver processing, mining, manufacturing, or any other field that results in your contact with silver every day, making you breathe in the silver particles, or it may become lodged in your skin and cause argyria.

Other Causes

Genes also play a part here; the genes of some people make them more prone to this skin condition. Some rare cases cause argyria, including silver earrings, silver-coated acupuncture needles, and dental pieces. But they are not always likely to happen.

Common Causes of All Blue-Skin Related Conditions

Along with all these mentioned above, several other causes and factors can cause this skin discoloration. However, the causes of most of them include skin conditions, bruising, insufficient oxygen or blood flow, injuries, medications, bacterial pneumonia, and other acute and chronic medical conditions.