cyanosis (sĪˌənōˈsĭs) [key], bluish coloration of the skin, mucous membranes, and nailbeds, resulting from a lack of oxygenated hemoglobin in the blood. It is a symptom of many disorders, including various pulmonary and heart diseases and many congenital heart defects (see blue baby). Cyanosis that is caused by slowed circulation through peripheral blood vessels results in a bluish tinge only on the cool portions of the body (fingertips, nose, ears). In such cases the capillary blood gives up more than normal amounts of oxygen. Although this type of cyanosis can be caused by reduced cardiac output (e.g., in congestive heart failure), the most common causes are nervous tension and exposure to cold. Another type of cyanosis results from poisoning, either by nitrates in contaminated food or water or by certain chemicals and drugs.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.