Death and skin color

  1. Hi. I was curious. When a person passes away, what causes the color around their eyes to turn a yellow rust color?? I know the skin turns pale and so forth and blood pools at the bottom, but does anyone know what causes this yellowish color around the eyes?? I am a nursing student and have tried going on-line and cannot find this explanation anywhere.

    Thank you!!
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    About Epona

    Joined: Mar '06; Posts: 796; Likes: 142
    Nursing student


  3. by   AnnieOaklyRN
    umm, as a medic I saw lots of dead bodies, all of varying ages from new to a couple days old. I have never seen yellowing around the eyes, maybe the person had a bruise from either a direct blow or a basilar skull fx, as bruises do become more apparent after death. If the person was face down that may also be livitity, depending on how long they were face down. Livitiy becomes permanent after several hours and is known as tatooing, but if that were the case the whole face would match on would assume..

    So I have some educated guesses, but unfortunatly no firm answer for you, hope it helped though

  4. by   joprasklpn
    was the person jaundiced from any liver disease? Maybe it became more pronounced after death. This is just a thought, I really never personally saw a yellow eyed dead person.
  5. by   birdgardner
    Can I take this thread on a slight tangent, that of color changes in near death, that is in respiratory or cardiac arrest? In my very limited experience, the young people have gone grey instantly, whereas the old people stayed pink. Or does that have to do more with metabolic rate and prior activity - for instance, the baby I saw had a high fever, and the young girl had been doing the most tremendous work of breathing, whereas the old people were just lying still when their breathing or heart stopped.

    It concerns me because it means you wouldn't be able to tell just from a quick glance at an elderly patient that he or she had gone into arrest - and in both BLS classes I've taken the instructors, nurses, said people pretty much went grey right away.
  6. by   ♪♫ in my ♥
    During my days as a mortuary tech I also saw my share of bodies and never noticed this phenomenon (though I never spent much time really looking at them so it's perhaps I just didn't notice).

    Perhaps there's an underlying disease process that produces jaundice which becomes more pronounced with the end of circulation.

    Is this a general observation that you've made, a specific case to which you're referring, or a question from an instructor?
  7. by   Christie RN2006
    Were their eyes sunken in and creating a shadowing? I have seen that in some of our really sick and emaciated patients, but I haven't really noticed exactly what you are talking about.
  8. by   Spritenurse1210
    i'm not sure. I've noticed that hue around thier eyes too.
  9. by   MIA-RN
    I have seen a few pts right after passing and they all appeared yellow all over their face, not just their eyes (these were all caucasian people). They were all sick/hospice deaths. After a while, their faces would become pale. No one ever looked blue or grey, but I have usually done the postmortem care pretty quickly after they passed.
  10. by   Nicky30
    Sorry I have no idea either.

  11. by   DutchgirlRN
    Quote from joprasklpn
    I really never personally saw a yellow eyed dead person.
    Me either.
  12. by   leslie :-D
    i've seen it, but not always ltd to the eyes.
    all these pts had hxs of liver, anemias, gall bladder and pancreatic diseases.
    there isn't a medical name for it.
    it is merely a sequelae of events r/t blood draining into larger veins after death, creating skin color changes all over the body, esp dependent positions.
    the sockets of the eyes, would be considered one of these dependent positions where fluids could pool.

    oh, the things i have seen....

  13. by   Epona
    Thanks very much for the replies. The person I was referring too was someone who overdosed and died at a young age. The rust, yellow coloring around the eyes was maybe 2 days post death. The rest of the skin was of course pale, but I noticed the eye area was a yellow, rust color. I was just curious why this occurred. This was an otherwise healthy young person (early 20's) who OD on cocaine and heroin; stopping respiration and causing cardiac arrest.
  14. by   Queakous
    Sorry to say but ALL the patients I have had that passed had a yellow tint it to their faces etc. That is how I have NO doubt they have passed. I have wondered about this phenomena. I have watched this happen w/DNR pt passing and would really like an explanantion.