Waking up in the morning with mysterious small red dots on the skin can be confusing and frightening. They are usually small and appear on the chest, face, arms, legs, and other body areas. In most cases, these blemishes are harmless and will clear up on their own. However, they can also be a sign of a more serious medical condition, like a blood disease or a skin infection.
What do small red dots on skin mean?
In most cases, red dots on the skin can be a symptom of many things, including bug bites, infection, internal bleeding, allergic reactions, or a skin condition.
If you have red dots on your skin, start by determining if they are itchy or painless. Painful red dots may be a sign of skin infection. Itchy red dots may be due to allergies. If the red dots are painless, red, and don’t itch, you likely have a skin condition like rosacea or eczema.
This post will help you discover the most common causes of small red spots on the skin. Ensure that you visit your doctor or dermatologist for accurate diagnosis and treatment, especially if other worrying symptoms are present.
20 Most 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 tiny red dots that appear when capillaries bleed and cause blood to leak into the skin. These spots are usually flat and appear on the arms, stomach, legs, and buttocks. They may also occur inside the mouth or on the eyelids. This condition is common and can be a sign of other medical conditions. The common causes of Petechiae are:
- Injuries and sunburn
- Prolonged strainings, such as vomiting, childbirth, weightlifting, crying, and coughing
- Certain medications include anticoagulants, atropine, carbamazepine, chloral hydrate, desipramine, indomethacin, naproxen, nitrofurantoin, penicillin, and quinine.
- Medical conditions include 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
It is essential to determine the underlying cause to treat petechiae as it could be a sign of a severe 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 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 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, or 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 other health conditions, 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 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 in shape. 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. 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.
6. 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 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 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 inches 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 age 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 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.
9. Strep Throat
Strep throat is caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, which are highly contagious and can spread quickly 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 and is 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 severe infections 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 glands in the neck, nausea or vomiting, fever of 38.3 C (101 F), difficulty swallowing, and headache. See a doctor if a sore throat is accompanied by swollen or tender lymph nodes or glands in the neck, red rashes, or high fever.
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.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition. When you have eczema, your skin will become sensitive, itchy, dry, and inflamed, with oozing scales, crusting, and red spots.
Allergens and stress are common causes of eczema. Regular bathing and moisturizing can effectively relieve the symptoms of eczema.
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.
Boils are skin infections caused by the invasion of hair follicles or oil glands. They are usually large red bumps filled with pus. The condition will disappear after the boil burst and drain out the pus.
15. Insect Bites
Insect bites can also cause red spots on the skin. Bedbug bites usually cause itchy, swollen, and round red bumps. Mosquito bites can also cause itching bumps.
Acne is a common skin condition, especially during puberty. Acne usually manifests as itchy, swelling, and bumps on the skin, getting a bacterial infection and converting to red spots. Pimples are generally small and not easy to treat.
However, some natural remedies can help you get rid of acne effectively. You can read 14 Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Pimples(Acne) Overnight Fast.
17. Heat Rash
Heat rash results from clogged pores due to high temperature and humidity. This will make sweat trapped in the skin’s pores and can not be ruled out, leading to rashes.
It usually appears as an itchy and red bump. This rash is relatively mild and usually disappears once the skin has cooled down.
18. Physical Injuries
Physical injuries caused by some accidents can also cause red spots on the skin. For example, biting, spanking, or car accidents can damage the body tissue and cause the bleeding of blood capillaries within the skin. In addition, hot skin burns or sunburn can also cause red spots on the face and other body parts.
These red marks are different in size and shape. You can relieve the symptoms with a cold compress， which can help ease capillary bleeding.
19. 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.
Rosacea is a chronic skin infection that can cause redness, small red pimples, and small blood vessels on the skin. Rosacea usually appears on the face, especially near the nose. This is a very stubborn chronic disease, and you need to seek a doctor for treatment.
Other Causes of Red Spots on Skin
- Skin Tags
- Deficiency of vitamin and mineral salts
- Autoimmune diseases
- Scarlet fever
- Genital warts
- Petechiae/blood spot
- Skin cancer
- Rheumatic Fever
How to Know the Exact Causes of the Red Spots on The Skin?
You can judge from the following aspects.
1. 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 they are usually not itchy.
2. 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, which is why you need to go to the hospital for a full 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.
3. 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.
Red dots on the skin are usually caused by leaking capillaries or internal bleeding. Some causes of red spots may not raise any concern, but other underlying causes can be severe or life-threatening.
It is essential 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.