Why Are My Toes Purple?

Purple toes are not always dangerous. However, they can sometimes be a sign of serious diseases. There are many causes for the development of this condition, ‘Blue Toes Syndrome (BTS) for example. It’s a situation that may indicate atherothrombotic microembolism. 

Atherothrombotic microembolism is a condition causing blockages in blood vessels that further leads to bleeding in the skin or mucous membranes. It also results in insufficient blood flow and sometimes slight tissue loss. But without diffuse (scattered), ischemia is mostly in the forefoot. 

Purple toes can also occur due to injury, trauma, and disorders that produce cyanosis and hinder blood circulation.

Other than these, there are more reasons why toes turn purple.

In today’s blog, we will learn about them. Without any further ado, let’s jump straight to the list of causes. 

Mechanical Obstruction or Damage

Mechanical damage or mechanical obstruction of blood vessels are also possible causes of the purple toes. An embolism is by far the most common cause of purple toes.

The source of the embolism may be atheromatous plaques (deposits due to arteriosclerosis) or vascular aneurysms.

Hypercoagulability (Thrombophilia)

Hypercoagulability indicates several changes in blood composition that promote blood clotting. Antiphospholipid syndrome is an autoimmune disease.

It is caused either on its own, as part of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or thrombocythemia (a rare disorder of the bone marrow).


Hyperviscosity is the viscousness of the blood. This can result in transient or permanent purple toes. Cold agglutinins can also lead to hyperviscosity. Cold agglutinins are cold autoantibodies that are directed against surface antigens of the RBCs. 

When cooled, these antibodies can agglutinate. This implies that it causes the immune system to destroy the RBCs.

Other reasons for hyperviscosity are excessive white blood cells, increased platelets, and increased immunoglobulins. 

Blue-toe Syndrome

Blue-toe syndrome (BTS) is caused by a blockage of the small blood vessels in the foot, which reduces blood and oxygen flow to the tissues.

It’s a result of problems in the bloodstream, such as an aneurysm or atherosclerosis (arteriosclerosis). Therefore, if you have purple toes, there’s a high chance that you have BTS!


Various drugs are known to cause purple toes. The most common medication that causes this issue is warfarin and anticoagulants. The process by which warfarin causes purple toes is known as cholesterol embolism. 

Steroid hormones can also cause ischemia or insufficient blood flow. It can occur with drugs containing ergot derivatives. Consider replacing your medication, which is causing these health issues, to get rid of purple toes. 

Inappropriate Shoes

In many cases, purple toes indicate that something is wrong with your shoes. Shoes that are too small in size, too large, or incorrectly worn can lead to a blood clot in your toes, making them feel irritated.

Occasionally, these irritations are also accompanied by painful swelling in the nail bed or inflammation in the toes. 

Likewise, the toes can swell on hot days when your foot no longer fits optimally into the shoe. If your toes find less space in the shoes, it can result in purple toes.

So try out wearing right-sized shoes to avoid getting your toes to turn purple. 

These were the primary causes of purple toes. In addition to the above, here are a few more reasons why you might have purple toes. Go, have a look!

  • Especially for trail runners and hikers, running downhill can cause discoloration of your toes. When you rub, the toes bump more often against the shoe’s front, leading to irritation. Especially if you choose too small shoes, it is more likely that the purple toes are the result of mountain running.
  • Have you ever bumped your foot against an object? You might think that it’s normal to get your foot hit into things. But that hit can result in something more discomforting – swelling and purple toes. 
  • Foot deformities such as a spreading foot can also be the cause of purple toes. If the arch of your foot has collapsed and the toes are bending upwards, they are more susceptible to bruises and irritation. They further lead to a change in the color of your toes from normal to purple. Therefore if you have purple toes, there are high chances that you might be suffering from any foot deformity. 
  • Last but not least, even a tumor can be responsible for the purple coloration of your toes. The good news is that it’s a very rare case. You can get your foot checked to ensure you are not suffering from any tumor. Even if you have the slightest doubt, consider visiting a doctor. 

Now when you know the causes of purple toes, it’s time we share the effective cures. Keep reading to discover them!

Treatment of Purple Toes

The treatment of purple toes depends on the cause. If the cause is an atherosclerotic embolism, treatment could be medicinal or surgical. Medicinal treatment may consist of anticoagulant medications. 

On the contrary, if the cause is aortic endarterectomy, surgery is an effective option. Surgery to remove aortic endarterectomy is dangerous; therefore, make any decision after considering your health first.

But still, it’s always best to consult your doctor straight away to know which medical treatment is right for you. 

The above are the permanent cures for purple toes. Surprisingly, there are temporary cures too. Taking medications for the underlying cause and the symptoms is one of such cures. Consider using antiplatelet aggregation and anticoagulant medications.

They will make your purple toe look less purple, but temporarily. 

Final Words

Now you know why your toes are purple. If you want to make them appear normal, follow the treatments we have shared. However, you will start to notice results a day or two after following the treatments. So it’s important to have patience.  

In the end, if you have any friend or acquaintance who is suffering from purple toes, share this blog with them. This way, you can help them get rid of this issue. 

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I have always been a shopaholic. A lot of times my questions went unanswered when it came to retail questions, so I started Talk Radio News. - Caitlyn Johnson

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