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Petechiae Definition: These are pointed, red dots that appear on the skin as a result of bleeding or broken capillary blood vessels. Bleeding causes them to appear purple or brown in color.

What is Petechiae?

Petechiae or Petechiae Skin Purpura are pin pointed red dots that appear on the skin due to bleeding within the skin or broken capillary blood vessels. These spots mostly occur as clusters and look like rashes. On pressing them, they neither change shape nor color. This is a characteristic feature of Petechiae.

Excessive coughing and vomiting that cause pressure around the face and eyes often result in purple or brown colored spots, called facial petechiae. In some cases, if blood collects under the tissues and reaches a centimeter in diameter, the affected area is known as purpura.

In most of the cases, it is not a serious condition and is caused by trauma to blood vessels on any part of the body. They are harmless spots and disappear themselves within few days. However, in some cases they may be suggestive of a more serious condition like thrombocytopenia. Any sort of injury to the face or eyes, like punching or suffocating can cause appearance of purple or brown spots. In some cases, sunburn and injuries during accidents can also cause Petechiae.

 What do Petechiae spots look like?

These spots appear as small dots like a pin prick and are usually red in color. If there is bleeding beneath the skin, the dots can change color from red to purple or brown. They do not blanch under pressure and retain their size and color.


Who is mostly affected by Petechiae?

There is no particular age, gender or race that is affected by this condition. It can happen to people of any age and gender. However, it is slightly more commonly seen in patients with underlying medical conditions associated with blood platelets and those facing issue with coagulation factors. Children and old aged people are more susceptible to Petechiae due to low immunity, skin problems due to ageing, strain and injury.

Petechiae Causes

They are caused due to trauma to blood vessels under the skin. These blood vessels are very small and link the tiniest part of your arteries to the tiniest part of your veins.

There are several factors that contribute to the occurrence of these spots on the body:

  • Particular medical conditions
  • Injuries
  • Persistent straining
  • Certain medications
  • Sepsis
  • Allergic Reactions
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Vitamin deficiency

Medical conditions:- They can be caused by several underlying medical conditions, both infectious and non-infectious. Some of the examples are:

  • Leukaemia:- It is a cancer of the body tissues that form blood including the bone marrow and lymphatic system. It can affect both, adults and children. Petechiae can be rarely noticed in cases of Leukaemia.
  • Thrombocytopenia:- It is a condition associated with a low platelet count. Platelets stop haemorrhage by clomping and forming lumps in blood vessel injuries. This leads to the appearance of purple or brown spots beneath the skin.
  • Infectious Diseases:- Petechiae can be caused by numerous bacterial, viral and fungal infections like:
    • Strep Throat
    • Meningococcemia
    • Mononucleosis
    • Viral haemorrhagic fever
    • Scarlet fever
    • Endocarditis
    • Pneumonia
    • Sepsis
    • Allergic Reactions
    • Autoimmune diseases
    • Vitamin Deficiency
    • Dengue
    • Congenital Syphilis
    • Ebola
    • Typhus
    • Cytomegalovirus
    • Marburg Virus
    • Hantavirus
    • Rocky mountain spotted fever
    • H1N1
    • Dukes Disease

Injuries :- Any sort of injury to the face or eyes, like punching or suffocating can cause appearance of purple or brown spots. In some cases, sunburn and injuries during accidents are also responsible for their appearance.

Persistent Straining:- Several strenuous activities can cause trauma to the blood vessels, resulting in their rupture and appearance of purple or brown spots. Some of the activities that can cause Petechiae are:

  • Excessive coughing
  • Childbirth
  • Weightlifting
  • Excessive crying
  • Vomiting
  • Choking

Medications:- These spots can also be a side effect of some particular medicines like:

  • Penicilin
  • Quinine
  • Naproxen
  • Atropine
  • Warfarin
  • Heparin
  • Carbamazepine
  • Desipramine

Sepsis:- Sepsis is a serious medical condition that results in low blood platelet count. This low platelet count in case of Sepsis can result in Petechiae.

Allergic Reactions:- Allergic purpura, which is a disease in which bleeding under the skin occurs, can also lead to bruising and formation of dark brownish spots under the skin.

Autoimmune Diseases:- Autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are also considered among few causes. In case of Rheumatoid Arthritis, white blood cells attack the cartilage of the joints and systemic lupus erythematous causes thrombocytopenia. Both these result in purple or brown eruptions on the skin.

Vitamin Deficiency:- Nutritional deficiencies like Vitamin K, Vitamin B and Vitamin C deficiency often accompany these miniscule red or brown spots on the skin.

Petechiae Symptoms

They are often seen as tiny red, purple or brown spots on the body. They are not itchy and retain their shape, size and colour when pressure is applied on them. There are several signs and symptoms which are often seen with Petechiae:

  • Hematoma, which is a collection of clotted blood beneath the skin
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Sudden or unexplained nosebleeds
  • Hemathrosis, which is also known as Joint Haemorrhage
  • Menorrhagia, which means extremely heavy discharge during menstrual periods

Characteristics of Petechiae

There are certain specific features associated with Petechiae that help in detecting them.

Color:- Mostly, the initial colour is red, which later turns into blue and purple. The final color is dark blue, dark purple or dark brown.

Size:- Their size is not more than 3 mm. They are mostly 0.5 to 1 mm in diameter. The larger versions of these tiny spots are called Purpura.

Location:- These spots mostly occur on specific places in the body like legs, face, ankles, back, thigh and shoulders.

No response to pressure:- These spots do not become flat or change their shape, if external pressure is applied on them. This characteristic feature of Petechiae helps in differentiating them from other rashes and skin spots. 

Petechiae Diagnosis

To diagnose Petechiae, your doctor may want to know more about your medical history. You can also be asked to undergo different laboratory tests like:

  • Tests that measure blood clotting abilities like Prothrombin time or Partial thromboplastin time
  • CBC or Complete Blood Count
  • Bleeding time which is the measurement of time that your blood needs in order to form a clot
  • Last and most important, Platelet count. A low platelet counts is inversely proportion to the likeliness of developing Petechiae.

Petechiae Treatment

The treatment depends on the patient’s symptoms and the root causes. Some cause specific treatments are:

Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy:- If the cause of the spots is Leukaemia, then the patient may have to undergo cancer specific treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Blood Platelet Transfusion:- If these spots are caused by low blood platelet level, then blood platelet transfusion is the only way out.

Injury treatment:- If the cause of the problem is a specific injury or trauma to the body, then proper treatment of the injury that caused Petechiae is very important.

Eye Drops:- If the exposure to chlorine was high and your eyes have also been affected, your doctor may prescribe eye drops to decrease redness and itching in the eyes.

Antibiotic Therapy
:- If Petechiae is caused by one or more deadly infections like Septicaemia and Strep throat, then immediate hospitalization or antibiotic treatment may be required.

Home Remedies for Treating Petechiae

Below are certain tried and tested home remedies that can help you get rid of the those brown, red or purple spots beneath your skin.

Cold Compress

This is very effective in the treatment of Petechiae. It can help a great deal in reducing inflammation and overcoming the risk of these spots from recurring. All you have to do is simply wrap a towel around an ice pack or put some ice cubes in a towel and create your own ice pack. Place the cold compress on the affected for 20-30 minutes and repeat at least two times a day.

Vitamin Supplements

If the cause of the spots is vitamin deficiency, then you must keep your vitamins tip and top. You can take multi-vitamin tablets or opt for vitamin rich foods like fruits and vegetables. For example, all citrus fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C. You can also get Vitamin B and Vitamin K supplement tablets from the medicine shop.

Avoid Trauma

Be careful and avoid any trauma to the injured area in order to avoid more spots for occurring.

Petechiae Pictures

Worried about sudden appearance of purplish-brownish spots beneath your skin? Check out these pictures to see if they match your spots!

petechiae pictures

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