What is Blue Toe Syndrome and is It Dangerous?

When one or more of the toes begin to appear blue or purple, doctors call it blue toe syndrome. There are several triggers, most of them related to the circulatory system. This article explains what blue toe syndrome is, how it feels, causes, and how doctors treat it. He or she will also explore the potential complications of blue toe syndrome and when to see a doctor.

What is Blue Toe Syndrome?

Doctors sometimes call it obstructive angiopathy or litter foot. A blue toe syndrome is a form of acute digital ischemia. This means that it occurs when the toes are not getting enough blood. The toes are cold, painful, and blue, but the foot is warm and has a strong pulse, and it may be freckle and blue in the foot from underneath.

This syndrome occurs when the arterial branches extending to the toes get clogged, but the branches in the foot are intact and so that the foot is warm. A person’s blood transports oxygen from the lungs to every part of the body. Every cell needs oxygen to repair itself and reproduce. The blood also brings to the cells all the nutrients they need and excretes waste.

Not getting enough blood damages the cells and tissues that make them up. This can cause discoloration of the fabric – usually blue or purple. When this happens to the toes, doctors call it blue toe syndrome.

Some people with this condition only have discoloration of one toe. Others may have deformed toes on both feet. Some people will find that their toes return to their natural color when they press the skin or when they lift their foot.


Cause and treatment
source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/

In addition to blue or purple tones, a person with blue toe syndrome may experience:

  • Foot pain, sometimes severe
  • Muscle pain in the legs
  • Sores on the feet
  • Nodules or lesions on the feet
  • Bruising

The Reasons

Blue toe syndrome occurs when a blockage in the small blood vessels in the foot prevents tissues from getting enough blood. Several conditions can cause blue toe syndrome.


Cholesterol is a waxy substance that the body uses to produce hormones, vitamin D, and other substances that help digest food. The body makes all the cholesterol it needs, but people also consume it in foods that include eggs, meat, and cheese.

When there is a lot of cholesterol in the blood, it can mix with other substances to form plaque. When this plaque sticks to the walls of the arteries, it makes them narrower, which leads to atherosclerosis. Plaque can block arteries, too.


A blockage occurs when something blocks a blood vessel. Sometimes, pieces of plaque can separate from artery walls and travel around the body in the bloodstream until they become attached. The same can happen with blood clots. Embolisms can occur spontaneously, or they may be caused by angiography, vascular surgery, medications, or kidney failure.


Angiography is a medical procedure. Doctors use it to find and treat blockages and hardening of the arteries in the blood vessels.

Doctors put a needle into an artery in the groin and then thread-thin tubes called catheters through the arterial system. The team will take X-ray pictures of the person while a contrast agent is being injected into the bloodstream.

This material makes it easy to spot any other obstacles or problems. According to the researchers, the procedure can sometimes remove a piece of plaque from the artery walls, which can lead to blue toe syndrome.

Vascular Surgery

Vascular surgery means any surgery on blood vessels. This system includes the arteries, veins, and lymphatic system. The blockage is a potential complication of vascular surgery. A piece of plaque, a blood clot, or other particles can circulate in the blood until it gets stuck in a blood vessel. When this occurs in the foot, it can lead to blue toe syndrome.


According to the European Society of Cardiology, medications designed to thin the blood or treat blood clots can also cause blue toe syndrome. Recreational drugs, such as cocaine, can also trigger the condition.

Kidney failure

The kidneys have several roles within the human body:

  • Clean the waste products from the blood and get rid of them in the urine.
  • Ensuring that the blood contains the balance of nutrients needed by the cells – these include sodium, potassium, and calcium.
  • Production of hormones that control blood pressure and red blood cells.
  • When the kidneys are not working properly, it is known as kidney failure. According to the European Society of Cardiology, this condition can lead to blue toe syndrome.

Blue Toe Syndrome Treatment

Cause and treatment
Source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com

Treatments aim to restore blood flow to the toes. Depending on the cause of the problem, doctors may suggest the following options.


An avascular surgeon inserts a mesh tube, known as a stent, into the affected blood vessels. This keeps the vessel open so that blood can pass through.

Bypass Surgery

The avascular surgeon takes a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body and creates a metaphor around the blockage.

Doctors usually also advise people to:

  • Comfort
  • Stay warm
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • The diagnosis

Doctors usually use ultrasound or angiography to diagnose blue toe syndrome and find out where the blockage is.


If doctors do not restore blood flow to the foot, the tissues may permanently die. Experts call this gangrene.

Symptoms Include

Blue or black skin – the appearance can vary with light or dark skin

  • Pain
  • numbness
  • Sores with a foul-smelling secretion
  • Gangrene is a serious condition





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