Petechiae: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

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Petechiae: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Petechia on the back / Photo by Wikimedia Commons


When the body receives minor trauma or develops an autoimmune condition, a person may develop symptoms of rash-like spots in the skin which is known as petechia.


What is skin petechiae?

Petechia or petechiae refers to the condition wherein the body develops small pin-point spots in the skin due to damages in the capillary blood vessels. Unlike rashes, petechiae are caused by bleeding under the skin. Most petechiae are caused by minor trauma which may not be a cause for concern, however, in some cases, it can be a sign of a more serious health condition.


Petechiae on the back of a dengue fever patient / Photo by Getty Images


Bleeding spot: A sign of petechiae

Petechiae can be seen in the body as tiny spots in the body which are often colored brown, red, and purple. It is usually seen in small clusters, as compared to bigger spots known as purpura and bruise.  These spots are often mistaken for rashes, however, it can be differentiated by pressing on the spot and checking if the spot turns pale or not. If the spot does not show any changes, then it may be considered as a petechia, but if the spots turn pale, then it can be classified as a rash.


Petechia on lower leg / Photo by Wikimedia Commons


What are the causes of petechiae?

Petechiae are usually caused by a minor trauma to the body, however, it can also be caused by an underlying disease such as leukemia, scarlet fever, sepsis, and thrombocytopenia.

*Leukemia. Leukemia is a type of cancer which affects the bone marrow. It is considered to be a cancer of the blood cells which results in an abnormal production of white blood cells. A person with leukemia will usually develop symptoms of petechia, fever, chills, fatigue, and weight loss, among others.


Woman with leukemia / Photo by Getty Images


*Scarlet fever. This is a form of bacterial infection which is a by-product of strep throat. People with scarlet fever will show symptoms of petechia, rashes, flushing, fever, and sore throat.

*Sepsis. Sepsis refers to the condition wherein the blood gets infected and results in life-threatening symptoms such as petechia, breathing problems, heart palpitations, and high fever.

*Thrombocytopenia. This type of disease is a condition wherein the body has too few platelet counts. When the body has low platelet count, it can result in petechia, bleeding, and jaundice.


What are the risk factors of petechiae?

While all people can develop petechiae, there are risk factors which increase the chances of a person of exhibiting one. These factors include injuries, autoimmune disorders, increase in pressure, aging, infections, medications, and cancer treatments, among others.


Young sick woman lying in hospital receiving cancer treatment / Photo by Shutterstock


How to do a diagnosis of petechiae

Petechiae can easily be diagnosed through a blood test of the patient. Blood tests would show how fast it takes for a person’s blood to clot, the levels of the types of cells in the body, and the levels of platelet in the blood. These three factors can show whether or not, a person has petechiae and if there is an underlying cause that may be causing the development of petechiae.


Doctor holding a blood sample / Photo by Getty Images


What are the treatments for petechiae?

Depending on the cause of a person’s petechiae, doctors can either prescribe medications to treat an underlying cause of petechiae or wait for the spots to go away by themselves. Some of the medications that doctors usually prescribe to treat petechiae include antibiotics, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

If petechiae are caused by a reaction to medications, doctors will recommend the discontinued use of medications. However, if petechiae continue, it may be a sign of a bleeding disorder. There are also some home remedies one may try to treat petechiae which includes drinking fluids, taking pain relievers, and resting.


Cancer patieint receiving radiation treatment / Photo by




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