Acrocyanosis – What Does The Bluish Discoloration Indicate?

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What Is Known About Acrocyanosis?

This is a vasospastic condition affecting the supply of blood from the arteries to the skin of the feet and hands. The vasospasm usually pertains to the process in which the arteries go into spasm and contraction, resulting in decreased blood flow to the different parts of the body. The smaller arteries that carry oxygenated blood and nutrients to the hands and feet usually receive insufficient amount of blood supply, because of spasm and contraction. Because of this kind of obstruction, the skin receives inadequate amount of oxygenated blood, resulting in a bluish to purplish discoloration. This characteristic discoloration is known as cyanosis. Acrocyanosis is a combination of two words – “akron” which means extremities and “kyanos” which means blue. Therefore, the bluish discoloration of the extremities indicates that there is not enough supply of oxygenated blood within the blood vessels of the skin, particularly the dermis and hypodermis.

What Are The Possible Reasons For Acrocyanosis?

According to a recently published study at the National Institutes of Health, there are two reasons why acrocyanosis happens. First, an individual might be having some kind of cardiac or pulmonary illness that makes him at risk for central blood oxygenation problems. Second, there might be problems with local tissue oxygenation. Either way, the results are usually the same; although there is a presence of discoloration in the upper and lower extremities, pain is often not associated with acrocyanosis.

What Are The Clinical Features of Acrocyanosis?

Acrocyanosis is a rare condition, but the painless discoloration is usually associated with cold and clammy skin. Other peripheral parts of the body can also be affected include the nose, lips and ears, and these clinical features are often exacerbated during cold weathers with high chill-wind factor. Although there is no swelling in the discolored part of the body, it usually exhibits profuse sweating and moisture.

The only time that acryocyanosis becomes slightly painful is when the affected peripherals are exposed to cold environment for a prolonged period of time, making them swollen and providing a tingling to numbing sensation.

First Aid Tips for Acrocyanosis:

  • Staying indoors during winter and cold seasons
  • Wearing of gloves or socks to provide heat and wick away moisture
  • Smoking cessation – because smoking can exacerbate vasospasms of the small arteries

The first aid for acrocyanosis are simple common sense prevention techniques to prevent discoloration from getting worse and the symptoms from exacerbating.

Related Video On Acrocyanosis:

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“Acrocyanosis: An Overview.” National Institutes of Health. Retrieved online on August 18, 2014 from

“What is Acrocyanosis?” Web MD. Retrieved online on August 18, 2014 from

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