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Pinpoint Red Dots on Skin: What Are They and How Are They Treated?

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The pinpoint red dots on the skin are caused due to a condition called petechiae. It occurs when blood vessels beneath the skin break and create multiple pinpoint rashes on the skin. 

In this article, we will discuss in-depth petechiae. We will cover its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. 

Keep reading to know all about these pesky pinpoint red dots on the skin.

Table of Contents:

  • What Are the Symptoms of Petechiae?
  • What Causes Red Pinprick Spots on the Skin?
  • Health Conditions
  • Side Effects of Drugs
  • How Are Petechiae Diagnosed?
  • What Is the Treatment of Petechiae?
  • Is There a Way to Prevent Petechiae?

What Are the Symptoms of Petechiae?

Petechiae can be red or purple in color and are less than 2 mm in diameter. Instead of being raised on the skin like other rashes, they are flat on the skin. 

With time, these small patches may start blending together and combine into larger patches. 

The most common symptoms of petechiae are as follows:

  • Red or purple flat spots on the skin that often show up suddenly
  • Spots that usually appear in a cluster and look like a common rash
  • Spots that are commonly found on the arms, legs, stomach, and buttocks
  • Spots that may appear on the other areas of the body, such as inside the mouth and eyelids
  • Non-itchy spots
  • Non-blanching spots, meaning they do not disappear after pressure is applied to them, unlike other rashes

    What Causes Red Pinprick Spots on the Skin?

    The red pinprick spots on the skin may be caused due to a health condition or as a result of the side effects of certain drugs. Both of these are explained in brief below. 

    Health Conditions

    Petechiae is caused due to internal bleeding and may be a sign of underlying conditions. Many health conditions may lead to this condition. 

    Examples include:

    • Endocarditis
    • Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
    • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
    • Leukemia
    • Meningococcemia
    • Mononucleosis
    • Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF)
    • scarlet fever
    • Scurvy
    • Sepsis
    • Strep throat
    • Thrombocytopenia
    • Vasculitis
    • Injuries
    • Viral hemorrhagic fevers such as dengue, Ebola, etc.

    Side Effects of Drugs

    Different classes of drugs that can lead to petechiae are:
    • antibiotics (Ex- penicillin)
    • antidepressants (Ex- desipramine)
    • anti-seizure drugs (Ex- carbamazepine)
    • blood thinners (Ex- warfarin)
    • anticholinergic drugs (Ex- atropine)
    • NSAIDs (Ex- indomethacin), and 
    • sedatives (Ex- chloral hydrate).

    How Are Petechiae Diagnosed?

    To check if a rash is petechiae, press a clear glass to the surface of the skin. If the tiny spots disappear due to the pressure, it means you do not have petechiae. 

    But if they do not blanch and appear just the same even under pressure, they are very likely to be petechiae. 

    Pinpoint Red Dots on Skin

    Diagnosing the underlying cause of petechiae involves a series of physical examinations and history of the condition. 

    Your healthcare provider may ask you specific questions, such as the first time you noticed the pinpoint dots. He may also ask about the other symptoms you have experienced, your recent injuries, and your medical history.  

    Post that, the doctor may ask you to undergo one or more of the following diagnostics tests.

    • Chest X-Ray
    • Liver Function Tests
    • Blood Count Test
    • Blood Culture
    • Lumbar Puncture
    • Urinalysis 
    • Vitamin Deficiency Test
    • Blood Coagulation Profile

    What Is the Treatment of Petechiae?

    Since petechiae can be a sign of a major underlying condition, you should waste no time and immediately consult your doctor as soon as you observe them. 

    The treatment for petechiae will depend on its underlying cause. For example, if petechiae are caused due to a bacterial or viral infection, then treating the infection itself by taking prescribed antibiotics should clear up the rashes. 

    Taking anti-inflammatory drugs like corticosteroids will treat inflammation. Scattered petechiae, when observed along with a fever, may be a sign of a serious infection. It may require intravenous antibiotic therapy and hospitalization.

    Immunosuppressants like azathioprine and methotrexate can treat petechiae. They do so by suppressing the immune reaction. Similarly, if a drug is causing this condition, then stopping the drug regimen should help resolve the issue. 

    For more serious conditions like leukemia, treatments like chemotherapy, biologic therapy, or radiation will help in resolving it. 

    In some cases, no treatment may be required. For instance, if you or your child suffers from petechiae, the lab results and other diagnoses may show that there is no underlying condition. 

    When it comes to home remedies, you should rest and take care of your body. Drink a lot of water to keep yourself hydrated and eat well.

    Is There a Way to Prevent Petechiae?

    Even though petechiae cannot be entirely prevented since they are a result of another condition, there are ways to ward off the underlying conditions in the first place.

    • Wash your hands multiple times throughout the days with soap and water. 
    • Avoid sharing spoons, straws, glasses, and other utensils.
    • Maintain your distance while you take care of a sick person. 
    • Maintain good personal hygiene.
    • Avoid proceeding with procedures that can lead to the development of infections such as tattoos. If you do, make sure that it is done in a sanitary way. 
    • Use insect repellants when going out. Wear long sleeves and pants when going outside to prevent mosquitoes and ticks. 
    • Eat sufficient fruits and vegetables to keep your body strong and in good health.
    • Ensure that you or your child take all appropriate vaccines at the right time to prevent catching infections.

      Petechiae or pinpoint red dots on the skin are caused due to either underlying health conditions or a result of side effects of drugs. 

      Conditions such as endocarditis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), leukemia, and meningococcemia can lead to petechiae. 

      One way to check if it is petechiae or a common rash is to put some pressure on your skin and see if the red dots disappear under pressure. Its treatment largely depends on the underlying condition. 

      Even though it is not entirely possible to prevent petechiae, it is possible to try and avoid developing those health conditions in the first place.

      Sangya Shaily

      Sangya Shaily is a content writer from Mumbai, India. She loves writing lifestyle, beauty, fashion, and health & wellness-related content, among other things. In her leisure time, she loves to indulge in reading classic literature and spend time with her family.

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