What causes purple-colored blood and what should I do?

Symptom Database

Have you ever noticed someone with purple-colored blood? It may seem like a strange phenomenon, but there can be various reasons behind this unusual blood color. In this article, we will explore what causes purple-colored blood in humans and what steps you should take if you or someone you know experiences this condition.

Understanding Blood Color

Blood color is typically associated with the bright red hue we commonly see. This red color is due to the presence of oxygenated hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. However, blood can appear differently depending on its oxygenation level and other factors.

Causes of Purple-Colored Blood

1. Cyanosis

Cyanosis is a condition that occurs when there is a lack of oxygen in the blood or when blood circulation is poor. This can cause the skin and mucous membranes to appear bluish or purple. Cyanosis can be a sign of an underlying health issue, such as lung or heart problems, and should be evaluated by a medical professional.

2. Methemoglobinemia

Methemoglobinemia is a rare condition where the iron in hemoglobin is oxidized, resulting in a reduced ability to carry oxygen. This can cause the blood to appear brownish or bluish-purple. Methemoglobinemia can be inherited or acquired through exposure to certain medications, chemicals, or toxins. Treatment for this condition depends on the underlying cause and may involve medication or avoiding triggers.

3. Cold Exposure

Exposure to extreme cold temperatures can cause vasoconstriction, narrowing the blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the skin. This can result in a bluish or purple discoloration of the skin, known as acrocyanosis. Keeping warm and avoiding prolonged exposure to cold can help alleviate this condition.

4. Raynaud’s Disease

Raynaud’s disease is a condition that affects the blood vessels, causing them to narrow in response to cold temperatures or stress. This can lead to reduced blood flow to the extremities, causing them to turn white, then blue, and finally red or purple. Managing stress, keeping warm, and avoiding triggers can help alleviate symptoms of Raynaud’s disease.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you or someone you know experiences purple-colored blood, it is important to seek medical attention, especially if it is accompanied by other concerning symptoms. Some signs that warrant immediate medical attention include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Severe headache
  • Confusion or disorientation

These symptoms may indicate a serious underlying condition that requires prompt medical evaluation and treatment.

Treatment and Management

The treatment and management of purple-colored blood depend on the underlying cause. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Some general tips for managing certain conditions that can cause purple-colored blood include:

  • Following a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet
  • Avoiding triggers such as cold temperatures or stress
  • Taking prescribed medications as directed
  • Seeking regular medical check-ups to monitor any underlying health conditions

Remember, self-diagnosis and self-medication are not recommended. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.


Purple-colored blood can be a result of various factors, including cyanosis, methemoglobinemia, cold exposure, or Raynaud’s disease. It is important to seek medical attention if you or someone you know experiences this condition, especially if accompanied by other concerning symptoms. Treatment and management depend on the underlying cause, and a healthcare professional can provide the necessary guidance and support. Remember to prioritize your health and well-being by seeking appropriate medical care when needed.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
Add a comment