Blue skin or lips (cyanosis)Overview
Blue skin or lips need to be checked urgently in hospital. See a GP if you have blue fingers or toes.
Call 999 or go to A&E if you or your child's:
- lips, tongue, face or skin suddenly turn blue/grey (or gums and round the eyes in darker skin)
- breathing becomes difficult
- chest hurts
These are signs of a serious medical problem.
See a GP if you or your child's:
- fingers, toes, hands or feet gradually turn blue
This could be the sign of a blood circulation problem.
Causes of cyanosis
Blue lips, skin, tongue (central cyanosis)
Blue or blue/grey skin on the face or over most of the body is usually a sign there's not enough oxygen in the blood because of a problem with the:
- lungs – like asthma or pneumonia
- airway – choking, or croup
- seizures (fits) that last a long time
Blue hands, feet, limbs (peripheral cyanosis)
The limbs will also usually feel cold.
It happens when blood circulation is poor because of:
- Raynaud's phenomenon – where the blood supply to the fingers and toes becomes temporarily reduced
- an artery problem that affects the blood supply to the legs
- beta-blockers, a medicine used to treat high blood pressure
- a blood clot that stops the blood supply to or from a limb
Sometimes it can also be caused by:
- being in cold air or water
- being at high altitude
Treatment for cyanosis
Cyanosis is a symptom of many different conditions.
Treatment depends on the cause.
Page last reviewed: 09/08/2017
Next review due: 09/08/2020