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Cyanosis is a condition characterized by an abnormal discoloration of the skin and mucus membranes. Usually blue in color, the state occurs due to a lowered oxygen level in the red blood cells in the region of the discoloration. The bluish tint is very often noticed on the nails, ears, toes, and cheeks. Newborn cyanosis refers to this condition in a newborn infant. This can often be apparent in newborns afflicted with congenital or inherited heart defects.
There are two categories of cyanosis. Central cyanosis refers to arterial blood that does not have sufficient levels of oxygen. Heart and lung disease are two culprits for central cyanosis. Peripheral cyanosis refers to venous blood that can be the cause of the bluish skin tint.
The more oxygen within human blood, the brighter red the blood becomes. When the blood is somewhat depleted of oxygen, the deeper red it appears within the veins, and can appear to be bluish on the skin surface. Venous blood is deoxygenated blood that is traveling through the circulatory system. In diagnosing newborn cyanosis, doctors will take into account the underlying causes, which could be anything from lack of blood flow from the heart, obstructions, and even exposure to cold temperatures. When this coloring occurs, doctors will typically intervene rapidly because hypoxia, or low oxygen levels, as well as circulatory failure may be imminent.
There are other potential reasons for newborn cyanosis. These include problems or obstructions with the newborn's airway, abnormal types of hemoglobin, and neonatal sepsis, or blood poisoning. Newborn cyanosis may be difficult to detect in infants that have anemia. Physicians will often ask pregnant mothers about any family history of heart disease. Fetal ultrasounds may be able to point to potential heart deformities as well.
Doctors will take immediate steps to diagnose and treat newborn cyanosis. Airways will be established and mechanical ventilation machines may be employed. Vital signs will be continuously monitored. Blood samples are usually taken and medications may be administered, such as antibiotics if sepsis is thought to be the cause. Doctors may begin an infusion of Prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), which is a drug with that works to widen the blood vessels, if congenital heart complications are suspected.
Newborn cyanosis is not a typical finding at birth and physicians will take into account all possible causes and origins of the condition. The baby will often be given a chest X-ray and then placed in an oxygen hood to help it breathe. Potential disorders relating to the muscles and nerves may also be considered as one of the underlying conditions of cyanosis.