Why Do I Have Pinpoint Red Dots on Skin?

The appearance of red dots on the skin can be very alarming and can be due to a variety of reasons. Some reasons are rather harmless whilst some reasons are fairly serious and require medical attention. These dots may vary in appearance and can be due to allergies, inflammation or infections. When the cause of the red dots is broken blood vessels under the skin, it is medically termed petechia. Petechia is easily distinguishable from erythema (redness of the skin) by applying pressure onto the area. If there blanching with pressure, then it is most likely erythema.

Possible Causes of Pinpoint Red Dots on Skin

1. Cherry Angiomas

The condition is also known as hemangioma. These red dots are harmless and can be numerous on some people. They may vary in color from bright red to dark pink. The sizes also differ and they do not disappear with time.

2. Straining for a Long Period

Childbirth, coughing, crying, vomiting or even weightlifting can cause small petechia in areas of the face, neck and chest. Some babies are born with petechia on the head and neck, especially larger babies. Breech babies sometimes present with petechia on their buttocks. This is normal and can be attributed to the birthing process. These pinpoint red dots on skin usually resolve spontaneously and are nothing to worry about.

4. Skin Bruising or Extravasation

This occurs when red blood cells leak out of damaged capillaries. It is easy to inflict this trauma onto your skin-sometimes all it takes is a little pressure from your nail to your skin to cause it. These dots disappear by themselves after some time.

5. Viral, Fungal and Bacterial Infections

Petechia is sometimes the result of infections like strep throat, scarlet fever, mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and endocarditis. These should clear up once the infection has been cleared.

6. Medicines

Some medicines can cause petechia as a side effect. Anticoagulants (heparin and warfarin), antibiotics (penicillin), quinine, atropine are some drugs that cause pinpoint red dots on skin.

7. Allergies

Allergens like certain foods (e.g. fish and nuts), insect bites or certain plants can initiate an immune response in some people. The allergy could present with small red dots on the skin, which can be itchy or not. Depending upon the severity of the allergy, you may require medical attention.

8. Skin Aging

Older people often exhibit red dots on their lower extremities, which is caused by scratching the area and damage to the capillaries.

9. Atopic Dermatitis

It is an inflammatory reaction of the skin. It may be caused by three factors: genetics, environment and an impaired immune response to certain allergens. It can present as pinpoint red dots on skin which can be itchy or not.

10. Thrombocytopenia

This condition occurs when you have a low blood platelet count. These platelets are necessary for clotting of blood in the case of bleeding. Having thrombocytopenia can be a result of another disease like leukaemia or an immune system disorder. Common symptoms are bruising easily, petechia, bleeding gums, etc. This is a serious condition and requires medical attention.

Other People's Experiences with Pinpoint Red Dots on Skin

I am a mother on my third pregnancy and have noticed pinpoint red dots on my skin, particularly my upper chest and hands. My doctor has said they are harmless petechia due to the increased blood volume in my body. I am worried because I have not experienced this in my previous two pregnancies.

My elderly mother has these red dots that have appeared on her skin. We were told they could be due to her Celiac disease, which has gotten worse recently. 

I have developed several pinpoint red dots on skin, literally overnight. My doctor gave me a very cursory exam and brushed me off saying they were not serious. I have many other symptoms and more dots keep appearing.

I am a 25-year-old fair-skinned male. I have cherry angiomas, but recently the number seems to have increased on my trunk. My dermatologist said not to be concerned because they appear with age. I have noticed them on my father as well. I’m still worried about these cherry angiomas.

When to See Your Doctor

  1. Unexplained bruising that will not resolve on its own.
  2. A sudden indication of bleeding into the skin.
  3. If the red dots are accompanied by:
  • Stiff neck
  • Swelling of the face, oral cavity, throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • High fever
  • Severe headache

How to Prevent Pinpoint Red Dots on Skin

  1. Avoid excessive sun exposure to protect the skin from aging prematurely.
  2. Take care and avoid trauma to the skin. Pay close attention when you're shaving and waxing. Treat any injury to the skin appropriately.
  3. If you suspect your medical treatment is causing the red dots on your skin, consult your doctor who will advise you.
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