What is purple skin?

Purple skin is a common symptom of injury and of heart and lung disorders. Purple skin results from bleeding and bruising, broken blood vessels (hemorrhage), and low levels of blood oxygen (hypoxemia). Purple skin may occur in conditions affecting the skin itself or along with a more generalized disorder resulting from conditions such as drowning or chronic heart and lung diseases.

Bruising from skin injuries is a common cause of purple skin. Other common causes include broken blood vessels and pooling of blood under the skin. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis) is commonly associated with purple skin, which may be accompanied by cough, difficulty breathing, and clubbing of the fingers.

Heart disorders, such as cyanotic heart disease, cardiac arrest, and heart failure, are common causes of purple skin. Rarely, purple skin is a symptom of a serious blood clot, such as a pulmonary embolism. Drug overdoses from sedatives, Benzodiazepines or narcotics can cause purple skin. Obstructions in the airway, including choking, croup and epiglottitis, are further possible causes of purple skin. Additionally, prolonged seizures, high altitude, and cold air or water can all lead to purple skin.

Purple skin can be a sign of a serious condition. If purple skin is accompanied by difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, rapid heart rate (tachycardia), chest pain or pressure, or bluish coloration of the lips or fingernails, seek immediate medical care (call 911).

If your purple skin is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.


What other symptoms might occur with purple skin?

Purple skin may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the skin may also involve other body systems.

Skin symptoms that may occur along with purple skin

Purple skin may accompany other symptoms affecting the skin including:


What causes purple skin?

Common causes of purple skin include bleeding, bruising, and broken blood vessels under the skin. A severe lack of oxygen in the blood (cyanosis) results in purple skin.

Injuries may be a cause of bleeding and purple skin. Congenital heart disease, heart failure, cardiogenic shock, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis) may be ac... Read more about purple skincauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Injuries and Wounds, Skin, Hair and Nails

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