Purple Skin Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Purple skin discoloration

Table Of Contents

It is quite worrying if you note that your skin is turning purple. What is the first thing that comes into your mind? For most people, such a happening will be considered a life-threatening one. What are the possible reasons why your skin may turn to this color?


Medically, having a purple skin may be an indication of an injury. Moreover, it might signify a more serious health condition such as lungs and heart disorders. Why does it turn to this color following the above conditions?

If you see your skin turning purple, then it is an indication of internal hemorrhage and hypoxemia. These terms sound sophisticated.

Purple skin discoloration

Why the discoloration?

Broken blood vessels underneath the epidermis may result in bleeding. This is what is called hemorrhage. Because of this internal bleeding, it is likely to turn to this color.

Any lung or heart complication leads to low level of oxygen in the blood. This means that cells underneath the skin are not receiving enough oxygen. This results in purple skin discoloration.

Purple blotches, patches, and spots on skin are all related. They all indicate purple skin disease. Commonly, all of them are closely related to injuries to blood vessels, lung or heart disorders.

What are the symptoms you expect

At times, some people cannot tell the difference between purple and red. There are many people who have a purple skin disease, yet they don’t know. Therefore, it is wise for you to know the symptoms that come along with it.

According to, symptoms posed depend on the underlying disease. Commonly, the symptoms noted on the skin also manifest in other body organs.

Firstly, this disease will manifest itself in the skin. Generally, it turns purple, alongside other symptoms such as the skin:

  • Turning extremely dry
  • Swelling while turning red
  • Is easy bruised and bleeds

If this condition is related to a health condition in the lungs, then the symptoms are likely to change. The symptoms are closely related to the pulmonary tract.

These symptoms include:

  • You may see some blood in a cough
  • At times, it becomes hard to breathe, a condition is known as respiratory arrest
  • You note some wheezing, whistling sound noted when breathing
  • Coughs come out in the form of yellow or green mucus

Finally, if this discoloration is associated with heart conditions also poses various symptoms that are different from the identifies that these symptoms cardiac related.

These symptoms include:

  • Heart failure, a condition known as cardiac arrest
  • The heart beats slowly
  • The heartbeat becomes irregular
  • You witness some chest pain

Some people may not see any of the above symptoms. However, other symptoms may come along with this condition. The common ones include:

  • Prolonged fatigue
  • Regular fainting
  • Fever and chills

What are the causes of purple skin?

What causes a purple nose, or what causes legs to turn purple? These are some of the questions that many people ask. Purple spots on face, on legs or even on skin all indicate this condition. What causes this discoloration?

Medically, having these spots or in any part of the skin is attributed to the following factors:

  • Injuries or bruises
  • Heart condition
  • Lung condition
  • Purpura
  • Cyanosis
  • Argyria


Skin injury and bruises

Any injury on the skin may make it turn purple. This mainly happens if the injury involves a large area. When an injury occurs without external bleeding, there might be an internal one.

An injury may lead to broken blood vessels. These blood vessels leak blood underneath the skin. As a result, it appears purple.

Lung condition

An infection on the lungs may result in this discoloration. There are many lung infections that interfere with the normal functioning of the lungs.

Some of the lung conditions that may affect the skin color include:

  • Lung cancer
  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Pneumothorax
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Purple skin from heart conditions

As earlier noted, this color may indicate that some skin cells are not getting enough oxygen. In this case, blood pumping by the heart is at stake.

Some heart conditions that may lead to your skin turning purplish include:

  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Heart failure
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Cyanotic heart disease


According to, purpura involves purple spots on face, legs, arms, lips and other body parts. If you are seeing small purple spots on the skin, then you might be suffering from Purpura.

Generally, these spots indicate that one or more blood vessels have burst. Because of bursting, there is a blood pool underneath the epidermis. Consequently, it gets discolored.

Purpura can manifest in the form of either small or big purple spots or dots. However, Purpura may also signify a more serious health issue such as blood clotting disorder.

Argyria/ argyrosis

Did you know that your skin may react to the chemical substances you are exposed to? In fact, prolonged exposure to some chemicals, such as silver, leads to change its color to purple. The color may be because of exposure to certain chemicals is known as argyria.

Unlike purpura that appears like purple dots or spots, argyria manifests itself in the form of patches. Generally, these are big purple patches. In some extreme cases, Argyria may affect the whole face.


Some people will call this blue to purple discoloration. This condition is common in the eyes, mouth, and tongue. The skin around these body parts turns from blue to purple. What causes cyanosis?

Commonly, cyanosis is associated with deoxygenated hemoglobin. What does this mean? As we all know, blood appears red due to the presence of oxygen in it. What would happen if this blood didn’t have oxygen? The red color fades.

Hemoglobin molecules may not contain oxygen in some instances. These are known as deoxygenated hemoglobin. They are generally purple in color. If such hemoglobin is contained in any body part, the skin around that part turns to this color.

Complications of having a purple colored skin

Some people think that having this discoloration is a simple complication that will come and go naturally. However, this is not the case. In some cases, especially, where it is signifying a serious health condition might be life-threatening.

If untreated, this condition can cause the following complications:

  • Heart failure
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Brain damage
  • Cancer
  • The spread of other infections

Treatment options

The treatment option adopted to treat purple skin depends on the cause. Firstly, you need to be appropriately diagnosed to ascertain the reason behind this discoloration. Once the cause has been identified, your doctor will prescribe the right medication.

For skin injuries, anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to relieve inflammation on the affected tissues. If a blood vessel is leaking, a minor operation may be carried out to correct it. Regularly massaging the bruised part may make discoloration fade off within a few days.

For heart and lung conditions, your doctor may prescribe drugs based on what is adversely affecting each organ. It is, however, impossible to treat certain problems such as cancer and asthma. However, drugs to manage the conditions may restore the normal color of your skin.


  1. what is Cyanosis?
  2. What causes purple skin?
  3. Purpura
  4. Argyria
  5. Common causes of Purple skin
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