Small red dots on the skin are a common skin condition. These red dots may be raised or flat and can vary in size. They may also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as itching, pain, or inflammation. There are many potential causes of tiny red dots on the skin, including insect bites, allergic reactions, viral or bacterial infections, or skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
While small red dots on the skin are often harmless and will go away on their own, they can sometimes be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. This article will discuss 21 common causes of small red dots on the skin. If you are experiencing persistent or severe symptoms, seeking medical attention to determine the cause is essential.
21 Common Causes of Small Red Dots on Skin
Below are the most common causes of tiny red dots or spots on the skin.
Petechiae are small, pinpoint-sized red or purple spots on the skin. They are caused by bleeding under the skin and can be a sign of various medical conditions, ranging from minor to severe. Petechiae can occur anywhere on the body but are most commonly found on the legs, face, and arms. They may also appear in the mouth or eyes.
Petechiae is often caused by a low platelet count, a condition known as thrombocytopenia. This can be caused by various things, including medications, cancer, liver disease, or an autoimmune disorder.
A hemorrhagic disorder, like viruses, bacteria, or fungi, may also cause petechiae. In some cases, petechia is a symptom of a more serious underlying condition. It can be a sign of meningitis, endocarditis, or rickettsial infection.
In addition, Petechiae may also be caused by physical trauma, such as a hard blow to the skin. This trauma can cause tiny blood vessels to burst and cause the petechial rash. A traumatic event, such as a car accident or a fall, can also cause it.
Petechiae is usually not a cause for alarm. However, if you have a petechial rash, it is essential to see a doctor to determine the cause. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause but may include antibiotics, platelet transfusions, or corticosteroids. In some cases, the condition may resolve on its own.
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 an ordinary substance 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 if you suspect an allergic reaction to certain foods, insect bites, or other substances causes rashes.
If you experience a drop in blood pressure, dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, or shortness of breath, seek immediate medical attention, as it can be life-threatening.
3. Heat Rash (Milaria)
Heat rash, also known as prickly heat or miliaria, is a common skin condition caused by trapped sweat beneath the skin’s surface. It typically appears as a red or pink rash with small bumps on the affected area. Heat rash usually appears in areas of the body where sweat accumulates, such as the neck, chest, back, and groin.
Heat rash typically develops in hot, humid weather when sweat cannot evaporate from the skin. This is due to the sweat glands becoming blocked, trapping sweat beneath the skin. The rash can also be caused by friction or tight clothing that prevents sweat from evaporating.
Heat rash typically resolves on its own with no medical treatment. To help reduce the symptoms of heat rash, it is essential to keep the affected area cool and dry. Wearing loose-fitting, lightweight clothing and avoiding activities that make you sweat can help. In addition, you can apply a cool compress or a cool bath to get rid of miliaria.
4. Cherry Angiomas
Cherry angiomas or red moles are a common type of skin growth that is not causing concern unless it changes shape, size, color, or bleeds. They are often bright red, oval, or circular. Their size may range from a pinpoint to 0.4 inches in diameter.
Some cherry angiomas are flat, while some are slightly raised. They usually grow on the 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 a red mole is not usually concerning, see a doctor if you notice several lesions or bleeding.
5. Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis is a type of skin inflammation that occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or an allergen. It is a common skin condition that can affect anyone at any age.
Symptoms of contact dermatitis include red, itchy, dry, and scaly patches of skin. Blisters may also form in more severe cases.
The cause of contact dermatitis is usually an external irritant or allergen, such as detergents, soaps, perfumes, or plants. Exposure to these substances triggers an immune response, resulting in inflammation, redness, and itching. Allergic reactions may also be triggered by certain metals, such as nickel, cobalt, and chromium.
Treatment for contact dermatitis typically involves avoiding the irritant or allergen that caused the reaction. In addition, you can also use topical creams or ointments to soothe the affected area.
6. Ringworm (Tinea Corporis)
Ringworm, also known as Tinea Corporis, is a fungal skin infection. It is commonly seen as a circular, red rash with a clearly defined border. It is caused by mold-like fungi called dermatophytes.
These fungi can live on the surface of dead skin, nails, hair, and fabrics. It is most commonly spread through direct contact with an infected person or animal or through contact with contaminated surfaces.
Ringworm is most common on the arms, legs, and trunk but can also appear on the scalp, feet, and groin. Symptoms may include itching, redness, and flaking of the skin. In some cases, blisters may also form.
Treatment for ringworm typically includes antifungal creams, topical medications, and oral medications. Good hygiene is the best way to prevent ringworm.
7. Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) is a common skin condition in children and adults. It is characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin, which can be red and scaly. It is most commonly found on the face, neck, hands, feet, and ankles but can be found anywhere on the body.
Atopic Dermatitis can cause a great deal of discomfort and can be very distressing to the person affected. Common symptoms include redness, itching, dryness, scaling, crusting, and rashes. These can worsen with stress, heat, or contact with certain substances. In some cases, the skin may become infected with bacteria or viruses.
Treatment for Atopic Dermatitis typically involves avoiding irritants and allergens. You can also use emollients and topical medications to reduce inflammation and itching. In some severe cases, oral medications such as corticosteroids and antihistamines may be prescribed.
8. Pityriasis Rosea
Pityriasis rosea is a common skin condition that 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, 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 is evidence 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 to 4 inches.
- Mild itching
- The 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.
9. Blood Spots (Purpura)
Blood spots (purpura) are skin discoloration caused by the leakage of tiny blood vessels in the skin. They are usually flat, red, or purple spots that vary in size from pinhead-sized dots to larger than a quarter.
Blood spots can occur anywhere on the body, but they are most common on the arms, legs, and trunk. Various medical conditions, including infections, allergies, and autoimmune disorders, cause the spots. They can also be caused by medications, physical trauma, or even too much sun exposure.
Blood spots can be harmless, but they can also be a sign of a severe medical condition, so it’s essential to have any new spots checked out by a healthcare provider.
10. Cercarial Dermatitis
Cercarial dermatitis, also known as swimmer’s itch, is a temporary skin rash caused by tiny parasites. These parasites, called cercariae, are released from certain snails living in freshwater, brackish, and marine environments.
When an infected snail releases its cercariae into the water, it can attach to a person’s skin and burrow in, resulting in an allergic reaction that produces an itchy, burning rash.
The rash usually appears between two minutes and two hours after contact with the infected water. It may last anywhere from a few days to two weeks and is usually accompanied by red bumps, blisters, and papules.
While cercarial dermatitis is not contagious, it can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. Fortunately, several steps can be taken to reduce the risk of contracting cercarial dermatitis.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes red, scaly patches of skin to form. It affects about 2-4% of the world’s population and can range from mild to severe. It usually appears on the elbows, knees, and scalp but can affect any body area.
The cause of psoriasis is unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers. It is not contagious, so people with psoriasis cannot pass it on to others.
Psoriasis treatment typically involves medications, topical creams, light therapy, and lifestyle changes. Depending on the severity of the condition, medications may include biologics, steroids, and other immunosuppressants.
Topical creams can help reduce inflammation, while light therapy can help slow the growth of skin cells. Psoriasis can be challenging to manage, but it can be controlled with the right treatment and lifestyle modification.
12. Lichen Planus
Lichen planus is a chronic skin disorder with an itchy, scaly rash. It primarily affects the skin but can also affect the mucous membranes, such as the mouth and genital area. The rash often appears as purplish, flat-topped bumps that sometimes have white streaks.
The cause of lichen planus is unknown, but it is thought to be related to an autoimmune reaction or a reaction to certain medications. In the skin, lichen planus is usually found on the wrists and ankles, but it can occur anywhere on the body. It may also affect the scalp, nails, and mucous membranes in the mouth and genital area.
The rash is usually itchy and can cause burning or pain. In some cases, the rash can cause scarring. Treatment for lichen planus may include topical corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, retinoids, and phototherapy. The rash may sometimes clear up on its own without treatment.
Pimples, or acne, are a common skin condition affecting people of all ages. Pimples appear when your skin’s oil glands become clogged with excess oil, dead skin cells, and other debris. The clogged pore can become infected with bacteria, leading to redness, swelling, and a visible bump.
There are many common causes of pimples, such as hormones, stress, genetics, and poor diet. Hormonal changes during puberty and menstruation can increase oil production, leading to clogged pores and pimples.
Stress can also trigger pimples, as it can lead to an increase in androgen hormones, which can cause an increase in oil production. Genetics can also play a role, as some people may naturally have more oil-producing glands than others.
Treatment for pimples can range from topical creams to oral medications. Over-the-counter topical creams, such as benzoyl peroxide, can be used to treat mild cases of pimples.
Another possible cause of tiny red dots on the skin is vasculitis. This condition is the inflammation of blood vessels and results in the 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 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 symptoms. Having an early diagnosis is essential for effective treatment.
15. Keratosis Pilaris
Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that causes small bumps and rough patches. They usually occur on the thighs, cheeks, upper arms, and buttocks. The bumps are not usually itchy or painful. This condition is often considered harmless and usually disappears by age 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 concerned about your skin condition. Your doctor may prescribe medicated cream to enhance the skin’s appearance.
16. Drug side effects
Certain medications, such as aspirin, atropine, penicillin, quinine, and nitrofurantoin, can have a powerful effect on your body, causing red spots on your skin.
These spots can make you feel itchy. However, do not worry. The symptoms tend to disappear automatically after a period of stopping the medication. It is recommended to avoid medication that has large side effects on your skin.
Hives are skin rashes caused by allergens such as food, pollen, medicines, clothes, etc. It can cause small red bumps and intense itching on the skin. Hives usually disappear entirely within a few days.
The best way to treat hives is to do a skin allergy patch test to find and avoid allergens.
18. Thrombocytopenia (Low Platelet Count)
Thrombocytopenia occurs when the count of blood platelets is low. Thrombocytes (platelets) help blood clot and stop bleeding. Other health conditions, such as leukemia, HIV, and hepatitis, can cause thrombocytopenia. 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.
Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is a common childhood illness but can also be contracted by adults.
Symptoms of chickenpox include a red and itchy rash, fever, body aches, and fatigue. The rash usually begins on the chest and face, then spreads to the rest of the body. The rash may sometimes be accompanied by painful blisters that can become infected.
Chickenpox is highly contagious and is spread through the air, contact with infected objects, or contact with an infected person. The virus can remain dormant in the body for many years and can cause shingles in adulthood.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent chickenpox. The vaccine consists of a weakened form of the virus and is highly effective in preventing the disease.
Tiny red dots on the skin may also occur when the blood sugar level is higher than usual. People with prediabetes may develop type 2 diabetes without changing their diet and lifestyle. This condition may affect the kidneys, blood vessels, and heart.
Prediabetes does not usually show any symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Blurred vision
Eating healthy foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and incorporating exercises in your daily regimen to treat prediabetes are essential. Your doctor may also prescribe medications if you have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
21. Insect Bites
Insect bites can also cause red spots on the skin. These spots can appear as a single bump or multiple red bumps in a cluster. They can be small or large and usually itch or sting. Depending on the type of insect, the red spots may have a raised center or be flat. In some cases, a bite may swell and be painful.
The most common insect bite that causes red spots is from mosquitoes. Mosquito bites usually have a flat, red center and can be accompanied by a white area around the red spot.
Other insects that cause red spots are spiders, ticks, and fleas. If bitten by an insect, it is essential to identify the type of insect so that the proper treatment can be administered.
How to Know the Exact Causes of the Red Spots on The Skin?
You can judge from the following aspects.
The red spots on the skin itch or do not itch.
The common causes of itching red spots are allergies, eczema, chickenpox, heat rash, urticaria, and other skin infections. In addition, mosquito bites can also cause skin itching, this spot you can easily recognize.
The common causes of non-itchy red spots are lupus, keratinized hairs, or vitiligo. Scaly lumps caused by lupus can spread throughout the face but are usually not itchy.
Red spots appear on the skin or under the skin.
The spots on the skin may be small but very itchy and painful. Allergies or some other skin infections usually cause this. However, there are many causes, so you need to go to the hospital for a complete examination.
The cause of red spots under the skin is usually bruising. This is due to ruptured capillaries under the skin, causing blood to build up under the skin. The red spots caused by bruising will disappear automatically after a few weeks.
The red spots are flat or raised.
The flat red spots on the skin may be caused by low blood platelets or capillaries bleeding beneath the skin. You need to check further to find out the exact reason.
The raised red spots on the skin may be caused by skin irritations, infections, or skin cancer that often cause itching and pain.
When to see a doctor?
See your doctor immediately if you experience the symptoms below.
- The red dots persist and do not go away after a few days.
- The red dots are accompanied by pain, swelling, or itching.
- The red dots spread rapidly across the skin.
- The red dots become larger or darker.
- A fever, chills, or nausea accompany the red dots.
- The red dots appear in clusters or a pattern.
- The red dots accompany other symptoms, such as fatigue, joint pain, or weight loss.
- The red dots do not respond to any home treatments.
- Any other new or unusual skin changes accompany the red dots.
- The red dots appear to be oozing or crusting.