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Hemoglobin levels and blue/purple lips

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
It can take a long time to get an up-to-date response or contact with relevant users.

Your hemoglobin leves is

  • >180 g/l

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • 160-180 g/l

    Votes: 5 15.6%
  • 130-160 g/l

    Votes: 14 43.8%
  • 100-130 g/l

    Votes: 1 3.1%
  • 70-100 g/l

    Votes: 1 3.1%
  • <70 g/l

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I don't know

    Votes: 11 34.4%

  • Total voters


New Member
Sep 2, 2003
During my dives my partner was noticing that after some dives i was getting the blue lips simptom, but I was feelling very well and the dives were far from beeing to the edge. As I'm a freediving Trainer I did not know how to explain this to my students. I know that cyanosis is a sign of oxygen depleted blood, but in my case I always felt good.

I search around and found this article. It is a very interesting article about cyanosis and hemoglobin levels.

To resume the article: people with high hemoblobin get cyanosis before they have severe hypoxia, with low Hb levels signs of hypoxia (LMC, BO) come berfore cyanosis is observed.

In the poll I want to see how are your hemoglobin leves and if anybody is experiencing blue/purple lips without beeing severly hypoxic.

Regards and good dives,
Erik Stojanovic
SAPA apnea team
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Reactions: Pezman
Interesting stuff.
I don't know my hemoglobin levels, but I guess not too high as I always have suffered from blood anemia. My buddy gets blue lips pretty early (I mean without pushing just too much) and I almost never get blue lips, so I was wondering the same as you for this last week.
Lets see what comes here.
Wow, I had a very similar question that I was going to post.

Two weeks ago, when I was in Florida, we were getting ready to scrape the propeller on my mother's boat. My daughter was holding one of the tools that we were about to use, a razor-scraper, and was absently playing w/ it (hyperactive 12-year old). Naturally, w/in a minute, the razor flew out of her hand and embedded itself in my left calf. Not surprising in itself, but I was surprised at how dark the blood was and it made me wonder if my hobby was having an effect on my hemoglobin levels.

I know that folks w/ diseases that reduce respiratory function (e.g. COPD) often develop elevated Hgb levels -- maybe amateur apneists do too.

Nice post!
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2 things:

1 - whilst the above may be true - remember cold lips are purple too, and they don't need to get very cold to look purple either (low blood flow, deoxygenating the blood quickly).

2 - Pezman - when you cut youself, you may cut venioles which will have deoxygenated blood in anyway.
Question for Eric, Do you have a Blood Gas Analyzer or other equipment to measure your hematocrit / hemoglobin levels? Do you know of any freedivers measuring their own?

Understood, but what was remarkable was the opacity of the blood -- which I guess is what I should have said in the first place.

As far as Hgb analysis is concerned, my understanding is that Hg measuring equipment is an inexpensive diagnostic machine that can often be found in a GP's office. I gather that there are a few ways to estimate Hgb, one being via conductivity of the blood sample. Literature that I saw ion the conductivity method seemed to suggest that measurements based on conductivity are subject to certain systematic errors (e.g. variation in electrolyte levels will influence the measurement). Bottom line -- I think that you can slip your doc a few bucks and get your Hgb level measured, but it might not be the best possible measurement.

update: did a little googling and found that you can get a meter for about $350
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I know my Hb level becouse when I'm donating blood from time to time they have to mesure it. I then usulay ask the doc about it. I thimk is good if you know your blood type and aprox. Hb levels.

Erik (with a "K")
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I have two hemoglobin analyzers, both the 'Hemocue B-Hemoglobin.'

I bought one new for CDN$900 and the other off ebay for USD$350. Both worked but the ebay one didn't come with the required accessories.

You just prick your finger with a diabetic 'lancet' and then use the drop of blood.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
I asked a doctor about this - as some people seemed to get blue lips much more quickly than others

his response was that one couldn't really tell hypoxia levels from the colour of the lips as everyone was so different - but that a sure fire way to know if things are getting really low is if their tongue is also blue..

so now when you surface with me, i may well ask you to stick your tongue out also!

A blood gas analyzer is totally different from a hemoglobin analyzer. A hemoglobin analyzer measures the amount of hemoglobin in the blood--it makes no attempt to measure how much oxygen or CO2 is in the blood. A blood gas analyzer only measures the O2/CO2 in the blood, and because of that, the blood sample can never be exposed to the air since the blood will pick up O2 from the air.

The link don posted is a very similar analyzer to the one I use.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
My Haemoglobin is 164 g/L and I am known to show blue early. However, I have always thought it was possibly due to having quite large red lips, which would show the contrast easily.

I think the color of lips is inadequate to say much regarding oxygen levels.
My Hb

My Hb is 165 g/l and many times I get blue lips very quickly. It seams that article makes sens.



Hb in the image shows Hb level as g/dL. so 15g/Dl = 150g/l
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One more thing, the "the blue lips or tongue" is called cyanosis.
Of course it mean low O2 levels in the blood but what it really means is that you have reduced Hb (reduced Hb, means that it's not oxidized), so it finally tells that your Hb is saturated more with CO2 than O2.
My Hb last year was 15.5 gr/dl. I will check it in two weeks (at the end of my training cycle) to see the changes of exhale diving on me.
i have a question for you:
how quickly can your Hb rise or fall given ideal or non-ideal circumstances (some form of hypoxic training / nutrition)?
it seems you hope to see a significant difference within just 2 weeks?... would you be surprised to see a rise of say 2g/dl in just 2 weeks if the conditions were right?

Hi Alun,
I think you misunderstood me.
My training cycle in exhale dives was around 3 months, it ends in two weeks.
What I have noticed is an improving in my PB, specially CW and Dynamic. Not so much in Static.
This progress i huge, because for 3 years I couldn't improve my performances, what I want to know is, if there is some physiological changes that can be measured.
I think nutrition is critical with this kind of training, so I'm eating a lot of red meat, with iron supplements and a lot (I mean a lot) of antioxidants.
I don't think that a rise will be that fast. Having into account that the red cells last around 120 days, I'll not expect changes in few days. Anyway, I just did 3 months.
I'll let you know the result.
when giving blood, you typically give 10% and so your Hb is reduced in proportion - you lose about 1.5g/dl. your blood volume returns to normal level in a day or so, and i've read that your Hb will return to normal within about 10 days.... this is why i thought it might be possible for Hb to increase (by ~1.5g/dl) in 1-2 weeks.

can you guess at the maximum rate of rise or fall you might expect with the right/wrong conditions? i've tried to search for an answer to this question on the net - but with no luck.

btw- i have a hemoglobin photometer myself and i've noticed how variable the readings can be - seems to depend a lot on exactly how you take the sample etc. i had thought about testing it before and after apnea but i know that the measurements are not accurate enough to resolve the small increase - so i won't bother!
Yes Alun you are right,
There is another thing that can increas Hb in slight proportions like breath-holding, there are some experiments about the spleen contraction, and found a rise of 1-1.5% in hematocrit after breath-holding (specially immersed and cold).
But I'm looking for more dramatic and permanent adaptation.
You are right about variability in readings of photometer, if you are interested on this issue it's better to do it in a lab.
For the next year, I'm talking with a physiology lab to make muscle biopsies and know if there is any change in myoglobin.
The fastest change I ever recorded in my Hb was 1g/dl in one week, when I was anemic, starting taking tons of iron and doing exercise-apnea.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
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