Peripheral cyanosis, commonly known as blue hands and feet, is a condition arising due to low oxygen levels in the blood.

Peripheral cyanosis is rarely a serious condition but anyone whose hands and feet don’t restore to normal color and blood flow after warming and massaging may have an underlying condition such as septic shock and should seek immediate medical attention. Also Read: Septic Shock: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment


Peripheral cyanosis is almost always caused by the reduced blood circulation to the affected extremities, making the tissues starved for oxygen. Oxygen-rich blood is a bright red while oxygen-poor blood is dark red and will reflect a bluish-green color through the skin.


Any activity or underlying condition that prevents blood from returning to the heart through veins, or that stops it from reaching tissues and organs can result in peripheral cyanosis. Some of the major factors leading to blue hands and feet include:


The characteristic symptoms of peripheral cyanosis consist of the following:

  • The skin on the fingertips, toes, palms, or feet turns bluish-green
  • The affected body part feels cold to the touch
  • The color returns to normal after warming up the body part

However, if any serious complications develop in the person, such as shortness of breath, chest pain or extreme dizziness, emergency medical care must be provided promptly, to prevent any grave consequences and help the patient recover completely.


Bluish skin isn’t usually a serious condition. However, any time skin color does not return to normal color, it is important to find out the cause.

A doctor can determine an underlying cause with a physical examination, listening to the heart and lungs, and also with blood tests. CT scans and X-rays can determine if there are abnormalities in the lungs and heart. A non-invasive pulse oximeter is a helpful tool for measuring blood oxygen saturation. Although it cannot help determine the metabolism of oxygen or the amount of oxygen a person is using.

Peripheral cyanosis can also be diagnosed using an arterial blood gas test. This test measures acidity, carbon dioxide, and oxygen levels in the blood.


Treatment for peripheral cyanosis depends on the underlying cause of the problem.

Doctors may prescribe specific medicines to treat heart and lung conditions. These medications help improve blood flow and oxygen supply to the organs and tissues. Some people may need oxygen therapy to restore normal levels of oxygen supply.

Doctors may recommend that a person with peripheral cyanosis stops taking any medications that restrict blood flow. Medicines include beta-blockers, birth control pills, and certain allergy medications. A doctor may also recommend that people make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or drinking caffeine.