Waking up in the morning with mysterious small red dots on skin can be confusing and frightening, but do not panic. There are many possible causes of the sudden appearance of tiny red spots, such as leaked capillaries, allergic reaction, infection, and internal bleeding. In most cases, red spots are flat and not itchy.
Red spots on skin are usually small and may appear on the chest, face, arms, legs, and other areas of the body. This post will help you discover the most common causes of small red spots on skin. Make sure that you visit your doctor or dermatologist for accurate diagnosis and treatment, especially if other worrying symptoms are present.
11 Most Common Causes of Small Red Dots on Skin
Below are the most common causes of tiny red dots or spots on skin.
Petechiae are small red dots that appear when capillaries bleed and cause blood to leak into the skin. These spots are usually flat and appear on arms, stomach, legs, and buttocks. They may also occur inside the mouth or on eyelids. This condition is common and can be a sign of other medical conditions. The common causes of Petechiae are:
- Injuries and sunburn
- Prolonged straining, such as vomiting, childbirth, weightlifting, crying, and coughing
- Certain medications, such as anticoagulants, atropine, carbamazepine, chloral hydrate, desipramine, indomethacin, naproxen, nitrofurantoin, penicillin and quinine.
- Medical condition, such as vasculitis, thrombocytopenia, leukemia, and vitamin C or K deficiency.
Petechiae may also be caused by bacterial, viral or fungal infections, such as:
- Cytomegalovirus infection
- Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
- Scarlet fever
- Strep throat
- Viral hemorrhagic fevers
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
To treat petechiae, it is important to determine the underlying cause as it could be a sign of a serious health problem. Visit your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
The immune system releases antibodies to attack foreign substances. Allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts to certain substances, such as pet dander, pollen, bee venom, and some foods. If you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that find a normal substance as harmful and can inflame your airways, sinuses, digestive system or skin.
The symptoms of allergies depend on the trigger and may range from mild to severe. Visit a doctor you suspect that rashes are caused by an allergic reaction to certain foods, insect bites or other substances. If you experience a drop in blood pressure, dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, seek immediate medical attention as it can be life-threatening.
3. Thrombocytopenia (Low Platelet Count)
Thrombocytopenia occurs when the count of blood platelets is low. Thrombocytes (platelets) help blood clot and stop bleeding. Thrombocytopenia can be caused by another health condition, such as leukemia, HIV, and hepatitis. It can also be due to certain medications, chemotherapy drugs, or heavy alcohol consumption.
The common signs and symptoms of Thrombocytopenia include:
- Excessive or easy bruising
- Prolonged bleeding from cuts
- Blood in stools or urine
- Bleeding gums or nose
- Enlarged spleen
If you experience the symptoms of thrombocytopenia, visit your doctor for proper diagnosis and immediate treatment.
4. Cherry Angiomas
Cherry angiomas or red mole is a common type of skin growth that is not a cause for concern unless it changes in shape, size, color, or bleeds. They are often bright red, oval or circular in shape. Their size may range from a pinpoint to 0.4 inch in diameter.
Some cherry angiomas are flat while some are slightly raised. They usually grow on arms, legs, torso, and shoulders. Bleeding can occur if the angioma is rubbed or scratched.
The exact cause of cherry angiomas is unknown, but they have been linked to aging, exposure to certain chemicals (bromides), climate, medical conditions, and pregnancy. Although the appearance of red mole is not usually concerning, see a doctor if you notice several lesions or bleeding.
5. Keratosis Pilaris
Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that causes small bumps and rough patches on the skin. They usually occur on the thighs, cheeks, upper arms and buttocks. The bumps are not usually itchy or painful. This condition is often considered as harmless and usually disappears by the age of 30.
The common signs and symptoms of Keratosis pilaris include:
- Painless small bumps
- Dry, rough skin on affected areas
- Sandpaper-like bumps
- The condition worsens when the season changes due to low humidity
This condition is more common in young children but can occur at any age. Treatment is not usually necessary. See a doctor or dermatologist if you are concern about your skin condition. Your doctor may prescribe medicated cream to enhance the skin’s appearance.
6. Pityriasis Rosea
Piyriasis rosea is a common skin condition that usually begins as an oval or circular rash on the abdomen, back or chest. Also known as a herald patch, the rash can be up to four inches in size, followed by smaller spots. Before the patch appears, you may experience, fatigue, fever, sore throat or headache.
The exact cause of this condition is still unclear, but there are evidences that a viral infection may trigger pityriasis rosea. The symptoms may include:
- A rash that begins with a scaly round or oval patch. The border is also raised and the size may range from 0.8 inch to 4 inches.
- Mild itching
- Rash usually lasts up to 8 weeks or several months
Pityriasis rosea disappears without treatment. You may use lubricants and skin lotions to alleviate the itching sensation. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines if the symptoms are severe.
Hemangiomas are noncancerous growths of blood vessels that are most common in children. They may grow over time and disappear without any treatment. Most hemangiomas do not cause problems, but some may ulcerate or bleed.
A hemangioma commonly occurs on the chest, face, back or scalp, but can occur on any part of the body. It may be present at birth or may appear after several months. Most hemangiomas fade by the age of 5, and some are resolved by age 10. Discoloration of the skin may remain.
See a doctor if the condition develops other symptoms, such as difficulty hearing and difficulty breathing.
Another possible cause of small red dots on skin is vasculitis. This condition is the inflammation of blood vessels and results in thickening, narrowing, weakening or scarring of the blood vessel walls. These changes may lead to tissue or organ damage due to restricted blood flow. Depending on the severity and type of the condition, it can affect one or several organs.
The signs and symptoms of vasculitis include:
- Headache, fatigue
- General pains and aches
- Night sweats
- Numbness or weakness
The exact cause of this condition is still unclear. Possible triggers include certain medications, infections, blood cancers, and immune system diseases. See your doctor if you develop any symptom. Having an early diagnosis is important for effective treatment.
9. Strep Throat
Strep throat is caused by bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes, which are highly contagious and can spread easily through airborne droplets, drinks and food. You can also get the bacteria from contaminated surfaces and transfer them to your mouth, eyes or nose.
The common signs and symptoms of strep throat include:
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swollen tonsils, sometimes with streaks of pus or white patches
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Headache, fever
- Nausea, vomiting
- Body aches
See a doctor if your sore throat lasts longer than 48 hours, accompanied by rashes, high fever or difficulty swallowing or breathing.
10. Scarlet Fever
Scarlet fever occurs in individuals who have strep throat. It causes red rashes that cover many areas of the body. This condition is often accompanied by a high fever and a sore throat. Most common in young children, leaving scarlet fever untreated may lead to serious conditions that affect vital organs.
The general signs and symptoms of scarlet fever include:
- Red rashes
- Red lines on the folds of the skin
- Strawberry tongue
- Flushed face
Other symptoms are enlarged glans in the neck, nausea or vomiting, fever of 38.3 C (101 F), difficulty swallowing, and headache. See a doctor if sore throat is accompanied by swollen or tender lymph nodes or glands in the neck, red rashes or high fever.
Small red dots on skin may also occur when the blood sugar level is higher than normal. Without changing diet and lifestyle, people with prediabetes may develop type 2 diabetes. This condition may affect the kidneys, blood vessels, and the heart.
Prediabetes does not usually show any symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Blurred vision
To treat prediabetes, it is important to eat healthy foods, maintain a healthy weight, and incorporate exercises in your daily regimen. Your doctor may also prescribe medications if you have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Red dots on the skin are usually caused by leaked capillaries or internal bleeding. Some causes of red spots may not raise any concern, but other underlying causes can be serious or life-threatening. It is important to know the possible causes and see your doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and correct treatment, especially if you experience other symptoms like high fever, bleeding gums, difficulty breathing, and bone pain.