Cyanosis: Definition, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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  • 0:00 What Is Cyanosis?
  • 1:10 Causes of Cyanosis
  • 2:38 Symptoms
  • 3:02 Treating Cyanosis
  • 3:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Cyanosis causes the body to develop a bluish tint to it, due to inadequate oxygen in the bloodstream. It can affect the entire body or be limited to certain areas. Watch this lesson to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What Is Cyanosis?

Cyanosis is a condition that causes the skin and mucous membranes, inside of mouth, edges of eyes, etc., to turn bluish in color due to too little oxygen in the bloodstream. Let's take a look at why this happens.

The blood is responsible for transporting oxygen around the body so that tissues and cells can function properly. It also transports waste materials away from these same tissues and cells so that they can be removed from the body. Our blood has four components to it: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. And the red blood cells are responsible for carrying the oxygen molecules. Specifically, the oxygen binds to the hemoglobin of the red blood cell, which is naturally red in color. Well-oxygenated blood gives the body its normal reddish or pinkish coloration. If the blood is carrying too little oxygen, it is no longer bright red in color. Instead, it becomes a reddish-purple, and this gives the skin an outwardly blue coloring.

Causes of Cyanosis

Cyanosis is caused by too little oxygen in the blood, and this can happen slowly or gradually over time or very quickly. If cyanosis is limited to one area of the body, it could be caused by a blood clot or some type of blockage preventing blood from flowing to that part of the body. If this happens, the limbs are usually affected, and this is called peripheral cyanosis. If the whole body is affected, it's known as central cyanosis. Central cyanosis is most often caused by problems in the lungs or in the airways leading to the lungs, or because of heart problems. Let's look at some of the specific causes.

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