Find out what a petechial rash is, pictures, the causes and symptoms in various parts of your body including legs, face, feet and trunk plus how to treat it.
What is a Petechial rash?
A petechial rash can be described as tiny, round, brown, or red or purple spots that appear on your skin surface. The rash is normally seen in areas such as the buttocks, stomach, arms, and legs. It is also not uncommon for you to find them on the eyelids or even inside your mouth.
The appearance of this rash can be used to signify the presence of a myriad of conditions. Some of these conditions are minor, while others tend to be more serious. Additionally, the rash could also appear as a response to certain medications that you could be taking.
Although it is described as a rash, the main reason it appears is because of bleeding taking place below your skin surface. You can establish this by pressing any one of the numerous spots on your skin. When pressed, it will not turn white, but a rash will start to turn pale.
Normally, they appear as a cluster, which is why many people assume that the spots are a rash. Traditionally, they will be flat to your touch, but this type of rash will not lose its color when you press it.
Petechial rash on Legs, Face, Feet & Trunk
As has been mentioned above, this rash can occur in a number of areas. These areas include:
The appearance of this rash on your legs can normally be attributed to a recent trauma. The trauma could have occurred on your legs, or on another area of the body closely related to the legs.
When excessive pressure or force is applied to a particular body tissue, the stress leads to the growth, and development of these spots.
For instance, when the blood capillaries found on the skin surface are inured, it will normally lead to a hemorrhage.
A hemorrhage is known to cause the red blood cells to start leaking from the injured blood capillaries. The leaking red blood cells will then start to accumulate below the skin surface leading to the formation of this rash on your leg.
After an injury, you can expect their accumulation to increase. This is common when there is no opening or cut below your skin surface to allow the blood to start escaping.
Petechial rash on legs due to medications
Apart from excessive pressure and an injury, the rash can also be caused by certain medications. For the case of medications, these are the medications that normally cause an allergic reaction to occur beneath your skin surface. There are medications, e.g., cortisone, aspirin, warfarin, and heparin which cause the rash to appear as a side effect.
Due to fever
A person suffering from a high fever is more likely to develop this type of rash. The main cause of this can be traced to the Meningococcus bacterium that is at times found in human blood.
Due to cancer
Leukemia and bone marrow cancer are two very fatal conditions. When the conditions affect your body, they normally lower your overall platelet count. The low platelet count is considered to be one of the leading causes of this rash.
Due to cancer treatment
Chemotherapy is another known cause for the development of the petechial rash. Radiotherapy can also cause its occurrence.
Due to thrombocytopenia
This is a condition that normally occurs when your body has reduced platelet numbers. Additionally, this condition can also come about when your body has a negative reaction to certain medication you may be taking. The allergic reaction will normally impair platelets functions and will cause the rash to start forming.
Other causes include:
- Viral infections
- Autoimmune disease
As is the case with the legs, the petechial rash on face can be caused by a number of factors. It could be because a person has a low platelet count, or because they have recently suffered extreme pressure or blunt force to the tissues that are present on their faces.
In children, the cause of this rash is normally attributed to a viral infection. But there are instances where the cause could also be due to meningococcemia or leukemia. If this two are seen to have caused the infection, then it is recommended that the child be taken to a doctor immediately.
Common causes of this rash on the face include:
- Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
- Aplastic anemia
- Vitamin K deficiency
Infectious causes include:
- Scarlet fever
- Rocky mountain spotted fever
- Marburg virus
Drugs that may cause the occurrence of this rash on the face include:
According to Mayo Clinic, the petechial rash on feet occurs when the tiny blood vessels that link the small arteries to your veins start to bleed, causing the blood to start leaking beneath the skin. This bleeding may be caused by various factors, e.g.,
- Medical conditions
- Prolonged straining
The appearance of the petechial rash on your feet could come about when your feet become too strained. This is common among people who lift weights. It can also be caused by child birth.
It can be as a result of taking certain medications, e.g.,
The rash on your feet could be due to various infectious conditions, e.g., bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. They include:
- Viral hemorrhagic fevers
- CMV infection
- Strep throat
- Scarlet fever
Additional medical conditions
- Vitamin K deficiency
- Vitamin C deficiency
Asphyxiation is one of the leading causes of the appearance of the petechial rash on trunk. Normally, the development of the rash can be linked to an infection in this area of the body.
Its appearance in this area can also be linked to some of the medical conditions that have been described or listed above.
Possible Petechial Rash Causes
As was mentioned earlier, the rash starts to form when the tiny blood vessels in the body are broken. Once they break open, this causes the blood to start leaking beneath the skin surface.
Additionally, a negative reaction to medication that a person could be taking can also be the lead cause for its development. Its known causes include:
Possible Causes Additional Information
|CMV||This is a condition that is normally caused by a viral infection. Its common symptoms include:
· Muscle aches
· Sore throat
|Endocarditis||It comes about when the inner lining of your heart becomes infected. It comes with numerous symptoms, some of which are:
· pale skin
· shortness of breath
· achy muscles and joints
|Hantavirus||It is a viral infection whose symptoms are similar to that of the flu. It is also characterized by the occurrence of breathing problems. Additional symptoms are:
· muscle aches
|injuries||Any damage occurring to your skin, e.g., blunt force trauma from a car accident can also cause the development of this rash. It could also come about when you are hit or bitten. Friction from a tight clothing item or from carrying a heavy bag has also been known to cause the formation of this rash.|
|Leukemia||This is also referred to as cancer of the bone marrow. Some of its most common symptoms include:
· night sweats
· swollen glands
· unintentional weight loss
|Meningococcemia||This is a bacterial infection that occurs in your respiratory tract. Some of its common symptoms include:
· muscle pain
|Mono||It is a viral infection that is transmitted from one person to another via saliva or the exchange of other fluids found in the human body. Its symptoms include:
· extreme fatigue
· swollen tonsils
· sore throat
· swollen lymph nodes
|Rocky mountain spotted||Bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. Common symptoms are:
· high fever
· muscle aches
· severe headache
|Scarlet fever||Bacterial infection that normally develops in a person after they have contracted strep throat. Its symptoms include:
· sore throat
· formation of red lines on the skin surface
· red tongue
· flushing of the face
|Scurvy||It occurs when your current diet has insufficient amounts of vitamin C. symptoms include:
· shortness of breath
· swollen gums
· pain in the joints
|Sepsis||It is an infection of the blood which is in many cases seen to be life threatening. Symptoms include:
· trouble breathing
· high fever
· fast heart rate
|Straining||Any activity that causes any part of your body to strain can lead to the formation of the petechial rash. Straining can cause the blood vessels in your chest, neck, and face to tear, causing blood to start leaking. The activities that are commonly associated with straining include:
· giving birth
· lifting weights
|Strep throat||It is a bacterial infection that is known to cause the sore throat in a person. Its most common symptoms are:
· body aches
· swollen tonsils
· swollen glands
|Thrombocytopenia||Occurs when you have reduced amounts of platelets in your body. The platelets normally help your blood to clot when you have been cut or injured. Its symptoms include:
· yellow eyes and skin
· bleeding from the nose or gums
· blood in your stool or urine
|Vasculitis||It is a condition characterized by scarring, narrowing, and swelling of your blood vessels. Its symptoms are:
· nerve problems
· night sweats
· pains and aches
· weight loss
|Viral hemorrhagic fevers||Such infections include yellow fever, Ebola, and dengue fever. They are infections that are mainly known for making it very hard for your blood to clot. Some of its most common symptoms include:
· general body weakness
· high fever
· bleeding beneath the skin
· aches all over the body
Apart from medical conditions, the petechial rash can also be caused by side effects to certain drugs. They include:
Types of drugs Known Examples
|Anti-seizure drugs||Carbatrol, Tegretol, Epitol|
|Blood thinners||Heparin, warfarin|
|Heart rhythm drugs||Atropen|
Distinct characteristics & symptoms
The symptoms of the petechial rash will normally be dependent on the condition that has led to its development.
For the case of infectious conditions, you can expect the rash to be accompanied by flu-like symptoms, malaise, and fever. For each infection, there will normally be a unique manifestation for the condition.
Normally, this rash is red in color. During the preliminary stages, it normally appears as a blotch on your skin.
As time goes by, the blotches will coalescence, and they will now appear as the rash you see on your skin. You should note that this rash is normally described as a flat spot that will often change its color as time passes.
It is recommended that you visit a physician immediately a family member has developed this type of rash.
You need to visit a physician to determine what is causing it to occur. The physician will then advice you on what to do after carrying out the initial diagnosis.
Special characteristics of this rash
You can use the following features associated with this rash to help you detect it when it is in the early stages.
These features will also help you differentiate this rash from all the other common rashes that you may have come across:
When you look at the size of the rash, you will note that it is not more than 3mm in size. These are what are known as the hemorrhagic spots. In many cases, they are between 0.5mm and 1mm in diameter. If they are larger than 3mm, then these are known as purpura.
It can appear on any part of your body, but is mainly found in the exposed areas, e.g., shoulders, face, thighs, ankles, and back.
The initial color of this rash is red. It is the first color you will notice as the rash is forming. With time, it will become purple, or blue in color. In the long run, you will find that it will change to dark blue in appearance.
- The rash never fades when pressure is applied
The most unique feature about this rash is that it will not fade even after it has been pressed. This means that its color will remain constant and will not lighten as is the case with other rashes.
Petechial rash meningitis
How is it linked to meningitis?
Meningococcal meningitis is traditionally characterized by a stiff neck, intense headaches, fever, photophobia, nausea, and vomiting. Elderly people will in many cases be prone to experiencing prolonged cases of fever and in some cases an altered state of mind.
There are instances where drowsiness or lethargy has been reported in some patients. Coma is less common, and where it is noted, it means that the prognosis may have been poor.
Patients are also likely to start complaining of a petechial skin rash. The appearance of this rash means that the condition has started to progress.
Often, the clinical pattern of this condition tends to vary in young children. In such patients, the bacterial meningitis will normally manifest in the form of a subacute infection that will progress as the days go by.
It is common for young patients to experience projectile vomiting.
Additionally, children with meningitis have a forty percent chance of experiencing a seizure within the first few days of contracting this disease.
For infants, medical experts report that illness will normally have an onset that is insidious. The infants may also not experience the stiff neck experienced by the other patients.
For the case of children, although they may experience fever and convulsive status epilepticus, there is a likelihood that all the other symptoms that are associated with acute bacterial meningitis will not be there.
According to HealthLine, there is a probability that the Waterhouse-Friderischsen syndrome will develop in ten to twenty percent of all children that have the meningococcal infection
It is a syndrome that is normally characterized by the appearance of a large petechial rah on the skin, in the mucous membranes, as well as the occurrence of a septic shock.
Petechial rash & leukemia
It is estimated that more than 300,000 people in the United States are today living with leukemia. This condition is known as a kind of blood cancer which starts to form in the bone marrow. This is where the platelets are normally made.
Once the cancer has affected the body, your body will normally react by forming large amounts of abnormal white blood cells. The white blood cells are formed with the aim of protecting your body against the developing infection.
At some point, the white blood cells will become too many such that they will crowd out all the healthy ones.
The condition comes with numerous symptoms. Many of these symptoms come about due to the fact that your body does not have any healthy blood cells. Some of the symptoms you are likely to experience include:
- Occasional bruising and rashes on your body
- Feeling weak or tired
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Chills or fevers
- Nighttime sweats
- Unexplained weight loss
Tiny red spots (petechial rashes)
One of the most common symptoms noticed by people with this condition is the formation of tiny red spots. The red spots are known as petechial rashes.
They come about when the capillaries are broken. Given that the platelets in your red blood cells are responsible for helping the blood to clot, people with leukemia end up leaking blood for too long.
This is because their bodies do not have enough platelets to help them seal off the vessels that have been broken.
Apart from petechial rash, there are other rashes that could develop when you have leukemia. The fact that your body does not have enough white blood cells makes it very hard to fight off the developing infections. The infections may cause symptoms that include:
- Mouth sores
- Skin rash
If you or your child, or a member of your family has developed the petechial rash, make sure to see a doctor immediately.
As you have noted from the causes mentioned earlier, some of its underlying causes are quite serious, and may in some cases be life-threatening.
They should, therefore, not be taken lightly. This is because it is hard for you to tell whether you have a condition that is mild or serious, unless you have been checked by a doctor.
Some of the symptoms that you need to be on the lookout for will include:
- Change in consciousness
- High fever
- Breathing problems
Are there complications you should be worried about?
By themselves, the petechial rashes do not cause any complications, and will in fact not leave any scars behind. However, there are conditions that accompany this rash, and which may lead to complications if they are not dealt with early. They include:
- Infections in other areas of your body
- Heart conditions
- Damage to your heart, kidneys, lungs, spleen, and liver
How to get Rid-Treatment Remedies
If the rash has been caused by a viral or bacterial infection, the skin will become clear as soon as the infection has gone away. If it has been caused by medication that you have been taking, it will clear when you stop using the said medication.
You need to check the spots on a regular basis to determine whether there is any change. If you notice that the spots are increasing instead of decreasing, it could be an indication that you have a bleeding disorder.
Before any treatment can be recommended, the physician must first determine what is causing the rash. Once done, any of these medications may then be prescribed:
- Antibiotics for bacterial infections
- Chemotherapy or radiation to assist cancer patients
- Corticosteroids for patients that have an inflammation
Hives, Petechiae, or Purpura on Infant?
- Wald ER. Group A streptococcal tonsillopharyngitis in children and adolescents: Clinical features and diagnosis: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search
- Raffini L. Evaluation of purpura in children:https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search
- Bennett JE, et al., eds. The acutely ill patient with fever and rash. In: Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015:https://www.clinicalkey.com
- LeBlond RF, et al., eds. The skin and nails. In: DeGowin’s Diagnostic Examination. 10th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015: http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com