Cyanosis: A True Medical Emergency
Cyanosis refers to the bluish color to the skin, lips, and nail beds when the body is not getting enough oxygen (hypoxia). If this sign is seen, it can be a true medical emergency. The cyanotic person needs to be seen by medical personnel who can give oxygen. Medical personnel are able to measure the amount of oxygen actually present in the blood by doing a blood test. Until that is done (such as in an ambulance), the oxygen level in the blood is often estimated by using a machine called a pulse oximeter that has a clip that goes onto the finger of the patient.
Cyanosis is generally a sign that the patient's lungs are not adequately oxygenating blood. Therefore, illnesses that interrupt gas exchange in the lungs can cause cyanosis.
Examples of pulmonary diseases that can cause cyanosis are:
Additionally, persons breathing an oxygen-depleted atmosphere may be cyanotic.