Blue nails may indicate that the fingertips are not receiving enough oxygen from the flowing blood. There could be a variety of causes for this condition. It is always advisable to talk to a doctor about this symptom because some are serious.
Blue nails can appear as a result of being cold, which causes vasoconstriction, making oxygen-rich blood difficult to reach the fingers. Blue nails are especially noticeable in people with low blood pressure. A sedentary lifestyle and poor diet, as well as dehydration or stress, can all contribute to blue nails.
If only one of your nails has turned blue, the cause is most likely an injury. It takes at least a few weeks for the hematoma to heal. Blue nails can be caused by previously painting them with dark varnishes - the dye may have penetrated the nail plate.
Cyanosis may be the cause of blue nails. It is caused by an increase in deoxygenated hemoglobin concentrations in capillary blood. The more oxygenated the blood, the brighter it appears. When there is insufficient oxygen in hemoglobin, the blood darkens and the skin turns blue. A bluish tint can affect not only the nails but also other parts of the body's skin, lips, and mucous membranes. Cyanosis is most commonly caused by heart or lung disease.
Diseases that can cause blue nails include:
- Congenital heart defect – Babies can be born with abnormalities, which can manifest as darker nail color.
- Congestive heart failure – contributes to abnormal blood distribution in the body.
- COPD is a chronic lung disease that causes damage to the air sacs in the lungs, inflammation and accumulation of fluid, so that the body does not get enough oxygen.
- Asthma - is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, leading to their narrowing and reducing the amount of oxygen in the blood.
- Pneumonia – during the disease, the alveoli of the lungs fill with fluid, which makes it difficult to transport oxygen.
- Pulmonary embolism - is a blockage of the pulmonary artery, which reduces the amount of oxygen circulating in the body.
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome - is the most dangerous condition related to the lungs, which leads to hypoxemia, i.e. hypoxia, resulting from a low amount of oxygen in the arterial blood.
- Raynaud's disease - is the spasm of blood vessels as a result of cold or stress, which means that too little blood reaches the hands and feet; the hands are reddish-blue in color.
- Neurosis - can cause many different somatic symptoms, including blue nails and hands.
- The presence of abnormal hemoglobin - most commonly methemoglobin, which is unable to carry oxygen. It can be a congenital or acquired condition resulting from the action of certain drugs, chemical compounds.
- Polycythemia vera - involves the production of an excessive number of red blood cells.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning - carbon monoxide inhibits the ability of hemoglobin to bind oxygen
Diagnosis and treatment of blue nails
Pulse oximetry is the first step in diagnosing blue nails. The oxygen level in the blood is measured during this test. Another crucial test is arterial blood gas, which measures the body's gas exchange and acid-base balance. The treatment of blue nails is determined by the underlying cause. These are some examples:
- oxygen therapy,
- a surgical operation (e.g. in case of a heart defect),
- taking methylene blue in case of methemoglobinemia,
- taking medicines for high blood pressure,
- airway dilators,
- avoiding caffeine and nicotine may be useful.
Blue nails: alarming symptoms
If blue nails are accompanied by alarming symptoms, you should call an ambulance. Such disturbing symptoms include:
- shortness of breath, difficulty breathing,
- pain in the chest,
- shedding sweats.
They may indicate an acute condition affecting the circulatory system, which can be life-threatening.