Definition

What is petechiae?

Petechiae are pinpoint, round spots that appear on the skin as a result of bleeding. The bleeding causes the petechiae to appear red, brown or purple. Petechiae commonly appear in clusters and may look like a rash. Usually flat to the touch, petechiae don’t lose color when you press on them. Sometimes they appear on the inner surfaces of the mouth or the eyelids.

How common is petechiae?

Petechiae is common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of petechiae?

Bleeding beneath the skin often results from a minor occurrence, such as bruising. The bleeding can appear as a small dot the size of a pinprick or as a patch as large as an adult hand. Bleeding into the skin may also be the sign of a serious medical condition. Always see a doctor about bleeding into the skin that is not related to an injury.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

See your doctor promptly if you or your child develops unexplained or widespread petechiae. It’s important to determine the cause, since some underlying problems can be potentially serious.

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes petechiae?

Tiny blood vessels (capillaries) link the smallest parts of your arteries to the smallest parts of your veins. Petechiae appear when capillaries bleed, leaking blood into the skin. A number of things can cause this bleeding, including:

  • Prolonged straining
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Specific types of injuries
  • Medications
  • Injuries and sunburn
  • Prolonged straining

Tiny petechiae of the face, neck and chest can be caused by prolonged straining during activities such as:

  • Crying
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Childbirth
  • Weightlifting
  • Certain medications

Petechiae may result from taking some types of medications, including:

  • Anticoagulants (warfarin, heparin)
  • Atropine (Atropen)
  • Carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Epitol, Tegretol, others)
  • Chloral hydrate (Somnote)
  • Desipramine (Norpramin)
  • Indomethacin (Indocin)
  • Naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn)
  • Nitrofurantoin (Furadantin, Macrobid, Macrodantin)
  • Penicillin
  • Quinine (Qualaquin)
  • Infectious diseases

Petechiae may be caused by any of a number of fungal, viral and bacterial infections, including:

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection
  • Endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart)
  • Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
  • Meningococcemia
  • Mononucleosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Scarlet fever
  • Sepsis — an overwhelming bloodstream infection that uses up neutrophils faster than they can be produced
  • Strep throat
  • Viral hemorrhagic fevers
  • Other medical conditions

Petechiae may also be caused by noninfectious medical conditions. Examples include:

  • Vasculitis
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
  • Leukemia
  • Scurvy (vitamin C deficiency)
  • Vitamin K deficiency
  • Injuries or sunburns

Child abuse involving strangulation or smothering can cause petechiae in the face and eyes. Biting and spanking can also cause petechiae. Crush injuries, such as those experienced during car crashes, can result in petechiae of the face, neck and chest. Severe sunburn also can sometimes include petechiae.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for petechiae?

Please talk to your doctor for medical advice.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is petechiae diagnosed?

Bleeding into the skin is easily identified through a visual inspection. However, to determine a cause, your doctor will need more information about the bleeding. After reviewing your medical history, your doctor will ask the following questions:

  • When did you first notice the bleeding?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • When did these symptoms begin?
  • Do you play any contact sports or use heavy machinery?
  • Have you recently injured the affected area?
  • Does the area of bleeding hurt?
  • Does the area itch?
  • Do you have a family history of bleeding disorders?

Your doctor will also ask if you have any medical conditions or if you’re being treated for anything. Make sure to let your doctor know if you are taking any herbal supplements or medications. Drugs such as aspirin, steroids, or blood thinners can cause bleeding into the skin. Answering these questions as accurately as possible will give your doctor clues about whether the bleeding under the skin is a side effect of medication you are taking or was caused by an underlying medical condition.

The doctor may give you a blood or urine test to check for the presence of infection or other medical conditions. If necessary, the doctor will also perform an imaging scan or an ultrasound of the area to diagnose any fractures or tissue injuries.

How is petechiae treated?

Depending on the cause, there are many different treatment options available for bleeding into the skin. Your doctor will determine which treatment option is best for you.

If you have any infections or medical conditions, prescription medication may be offered. This may be enough to stop the bleeding. However, if medications are causing the bleeding, your doctor may recommend switching medications or discontinuing the use of your current medication.

Contact your doctor immediately if you experience a recurrence of bleeding into the skin after treatment.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage petechiae?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with petechiae:

  • Protect aging skin. Avoid trauma such as bumping or pulling on skin areas. For a cut or scrape, use direct pressure to stop the bleeding.
  • If you have a drug reaction, ask your provider about stopping the drug. Otherwise, follow your prescribed therapy to treat the underlying cause of the problem.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

 

Sources

Review Date: July 6, 2017 | Last Modified: July 6, 2017

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