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What is Acrocyanosis?

Acrocyanosis is a disorder of the peripheral vascular system characterized by a bluish coloration of the skin due to reduced oxygen in the blood. It normally affects the hands and feet.

Types of Acrocyanosis

The two types of acrocyanosis are:

  • Primary acrocyanosis: This condition is usually associated with cold temperatures and emotional stress and is not considered harmful.
  • Secondary acrocyanosis: This condition is associated with various underlying diseases or disorders.

Causes of Acrocyanosis

The cause for primary acrocyanosis is constriction of the peripheral blood vessels which may be due to:

  • Cold temperatures
  • A combination of lowered oxygen pressure and increased wind when living at a high altitude.
  • Genetic abnormalities of the blood vessels

The causes for secondary acrocyanosis

  • Infections
  • Vascular diseases
  • Blood disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Cancer

Symptoms of Acrocyanosis

Common symptoms for both types of acrocyanosis include:

  • Cold and sweaty hands and feet
  • Low skin temperatures
  • Slow blood flow
  • Bluish-colored of the fingers or toes
  • Swelling of the hands and feet

Diagnosis of Acrocyanosis

The doctor will discuss your symptoms, review your medical history, check your overall health, and perform a physical examination. A capillaroscopy, a noninvasive technique that measures the blood circulation in the small vessels of your nailbed may be done as well. Other specialized tests and imaging studies may be ordered to determine the cause of the symptoms before confirming secondary acrocyanosis in a suspected patient.


For primary acrocyanosis, treatment methods are employed to manage the symptoms. In children and adults, keeping hands and feet warm and covering up body parts can protect against cold temperatures. Medications such as alpha-blockers that help in relaxing muscles are sometimes used when symptoms are severe. Proper treatment and management of the underlying condition can help in resolving the symptoms related to secondary acrocyanosis.