Red Spots on Skin

1 What does red spots on skin mean?

Red spots on the skin is a very common complaint among people. In most of the cases, they are harmless. They may differ in their appearance, depending on the cause. Red spots may be seen singly or in groups and may be itchy or non-itchy.

In some rare cases, it may be a symptom of a serious condition like leukemia. The spots may develop suddenly or over a period of time, based on the actual cause of the condition.

The size of the spots may range from a small spot to a large one. The appearance may differ from flat to raised, and the color may range from pink to purplish red. This can also happen due to specific food allergies, or chemical or cosmetic allergies and may also happen due to some insect bites.

The spots may be accompanied by symptoms, depending on the underlying cause of the condition.

Itchy red spots on skin

If the red spots occurred on skin are itchy and irritating, it can be due to several reasons such as allergic reactions of specific foods or ongoing medications, insect bites like bed bugs, flea bites, mite bites or scabies.
Finding out the root cause behind these itchy spots is the only way to proceed to get medical treatment to find relief.

Sometimes there can be a rash or bumps on the skin. And these bumps can break out. If you go through the irritation of outbreaks, you can conduct a self-examination before seeing your physician or dermatologist. It can help you to diagnose the condition more accurately.

Think of having a contact with something unusual or intake of an unfamiliar or rare food product.

This can cause due to any natural substance like intake of fruits, vegetables or a skin contact with any household product containing chemicals or other ingredients that you are allergic to. IT will make the diagnosis easy for you to know if you have allergy related hives.

You may request a blood test to be conducted to understand if anything else is causing the red spots. A blood allergy test can give you the exact reason behind the red itchy spots.

There are several types of infections that can cause itchy red spots or bumps on skin. Even chickenpox and impetigo can give you similar blisters. A self-assessment can be helpful to you to provide more information to your doctor and it can ease the treatment towards the root cause.

Non-itchy red spots on skin

A non-itchy red spot can have causes similar to itchy red spots.

Here are some potential causes behind non-itchy red spots on skin:

  • Birthmarks: Birthmark spots are the spots on the skin that are present at birth. They can be pink, purple, or red in color and are usually “Vascular Birthmarks” which are caused by abnormal blood vessels in the skin.
  • Angiomas: Angiomas are abnormal skin growths that can be anywhere on the body. They are caused by blood vessels that have plodded together and look as if red vaulted bumps, also known as papules, on or beneath the skin.
  • Acne: Acne is a very common skin disorder that can range from minor to severe. The illness usually presents itself as skin bumps that often become red or swollen and can break out.
  • Allergic reactions: An allergic reaction may give an itchy or non-itchy spots on the skin. The root source of the allergy can be anything including specific food or any chemical or a cosmetic too.
  • Pityriasis Rosea: Pityriasis rosea is a rash caused by a virus that generally lasts from six to twelve weeks. It is categorized by a larger, “mother” patch, complemented by smaller “daughter” spots around it. It is frequently pink or red in color and may be elevated and scaly in texture.
  • Keratosis pilaris: Keratosis pilaris is an inoffensive skin disorder that arises from the overproduction of keratin. It causes small, tough bumps around hair follicles, particularly on the buttocks, thighs, and upper arms.
  • Hives: Hives are a rash or red bumps that appear unexpectedly on the skin, commonly as a result of an allergen. They typically last for few hours or a few days before collapsing. They can be itchy or non-itchy, painful, or numb.
  • Rosacea: Rosacea is a chronic skin disorder that causes little red pimples or spots and redness of the skin. It classically appears only on the face and it is common for small blood vessels to appear on the surface of the skin.

Other common symptoms of red spots include:

In some cases decreased appetite and flu-like symptoms are seen accompanying the changes in the skin. Pain in joints, redness in eyes, and sneezing are also seen in some of the cases. Some of the symptoms that indicate a life-threatening condition include high fever, tachycardia, severe headache, spontaneous bleeding, stiff neck, and rectal bleeding.

Causes of red spots are multiple. Many different diseases and disorders have red spots as one of the symptoms of the condition. It may be a symptom of inflammation in the body. Causes may be infectious, insect bites, allergic, autoimmune conditions, and others.

Some of the fungal, viral and bacterial infections may cause red spots in the skin. Many insects and parasites are also implicated in the development of red spots on the skin. Bedbugs, fleas, lice and mosquitoes, and ticks also cause these spots.

Many allergens and allergic conditions have red spots as one of the symptoms. Animal allergy, allergic contact dermatitis, allergic purpura, drug reaction, and food allergies are some of the causes.

Autoimmune conditions including vasculitis and systemic lupus are also causes of red spots. Other causes of red spots include broken blood vessels, overexposure to the sun, Kaposi sarcoma, certain medications, and sarcoidosis. Some severe conditions like leukemia, meningitis, allergic reaction and thrombocytopenia also have red spots as one of the symptoms.

Complications of red spots on skin depend on the underlying condition or disease. Red skin spots may result in encephalitis, bacterial pneumonia, organ failure, complications in pregnancy, respiratory arrest, rheumatic fever, and sepsis.

Review of medical history and physical examination help in identifying the probable cause of red spots on the skin. A skin biopsy may be recommended in some cases if serious conditions are expected as the possible cause.

In this procedure, a small sample of skin is analyzed. Depending on the underlying condition, one may be referred to a dermatologist for further diagnosis and treatment. One should take the doctor’s advice if the red spots do not go away over time, or if they change with time. This is particularly important if the person has an increased risk of severe conditions including cancer.

Treatment of red spots depends on the underlying cause. Most of the causes are harmless and may not require any specific treatment. Antibiotics are prescribed for the bacterial infection. For viral infections, over-the-counter medications, and home treatment would suffice.

Most forms of red spots can be treated successfully. When it comes to those caused by infection or any chronic conditions, timely diagnosis and treatment are needed for effective treatment. Frequent follow-ups may be necessary in certain cases.

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2 Causes

Red skin spots are caused by multiple factors. Inflammations, allergies, diseases, and disorders are all implicated in the development of this symptom. Many viral, bacterial, and fungal agents cause red spots. The cause behind the red spot depends upon the symptoms that appear on the skin and other body parts.

Some of the infections that result in this symptoms include:

Fungal infection – Athlete’s foot, thrush, and yeast infection may all cause red skin spots.

Viral infection – Viral diseases like measles, rubella, and chickenpox are characterized by red spots on the skin. Dengue fever caused by viruses may also cause reddish skin rashes that appear within two to five days of exposure to the viral agent.

Ebola virus infection - This may cause unexplained bruising in the skin that is characterized by red spots in some cases. Herpes virus infection in babies known as roseola also has skin spots as one of the symptoms. Viral hemorrhagic fevers also may cause this symptom in many people.

Bacterial infections – Many bacterial infections are implicated in the development of skin rashes. Strep throat is a bacterial infection characterized by swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and tiny reddish spots on the skin.

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that usually develops in people with strep throat. The fever is accompanied by small red spots on the skin. It often looks like a sunburn.

Parasites and insect bites are some of the causes of red spots on the skin. This includes bedbugs, fleas, lice, mosquito bites, scabies, and tick bites.

Allergens present in the environment, food, and animals may cause red spots, this includes:

Contact dermatitis – Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by allergic reaction to a foreign substance. The allergen may cause the release of inflammatory chemicals which result in symptoms like red spots on the skin.

Allergic purpura – This is characterized by bleeding of small blood vessels and leads to small, reddish patches on the skin.

Animal allergy – Pet allergies are also caused by the exaggerated response of the immune system. Sneezing, runny nose, facial pain, and skin rashes are characteristic of many pet allergies.

Drug allergy – Drug allergy refers to a group of symptoms caused by an allergic reaction to certain medications. Anti-seizure drugs, penicillin, sulfa drugs, and insulin are some drugs that result in an allergic reaction that produces red spots on the skin.

Atopic dermatitis – This is a chronic, inflammatory disease of the skin that causes skin rashes and intense itching.

Food allergies – Adverse reactions to certain foods is referred to as food allergies. Most of them cause typical allergic reaction symptoms including stuffy nose and skin rashes.

Poison ivy and poison oak may also cause reddish spots on the skin. Inflammatory diseases including systemic lupus erythematosus and vasculitis are characterized by rashes on the skin.

Other causes of red spots on the skin include:

3 Diagnosis and treatment

For the diagnosis of the underlying cause of the symptom, review of medical history, symptoms, and physical examination are of help. The primary feature of the skin rash is noted during the physical examination.

It is then described on the basis of color, size, and number. The consistency, shape, tenderness, and warmth of the skin are also noted. Information on diet, recent changes in medications, and exposure to allergens may also be of help.

Distribution of the rashes on the body provides an important clue to the most probable cause of the rashes. These facts on rashes are then used in the differential diagnosis of the cause.

Other tests and investigations are often based on the underlying cause of the condition. Blood and skin tests are the most common diagnostic tests recommended in the identification of the cause of skin rashes.

Allergy tests, performed by an allergy specialist, help to identify whether the body has an allergic reaction to a particular allergen. The scratch test is a type of allergy test in which an allergen is placed on the skin and the reaction noted.

Swelling or redness on the part of the scratch test indicates an allergy. The intradermal test is recommended if the scratch test does not reveal the presence of allergy. In a blood test, the presence of antibodies against the specific allergen is checked.

This test is very effective in identifying an allergic reaction to many of the possible allergens. An elimination diet is suggested if a food allergy is considered to be the possible cause of the condition.

Treatment of skin spots varies with the underlying condition. Many of the causes of red spots are harmless and may not require specific medical treatment. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream may help in easing the discomfort due to rashes.

Calamine lotion is also useful in relieving rashes. For pain associated with rashes, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used. Antibiotics are the preferred treatment method for a bacterial infection that results in rashes.

Viral infection may be treated with medications that help to relieve the symptoms. Stopping medications that cause rashes help in relieving the symptom. Topical steroids are used to reduce the skin inflammation.

Oral antihistamines are also suggested in treating inflammation. The dose of antihistamines may be increased if the usual dose does not give much relief. Antifungal medications like clotrimazole and terbinafine are used in case of fungal infections.

For many infections, prescription-strength medications like mupirocin are suggested. Ice packs or cold compressions are ideal for red spots caused by injury to blood vessels. Corticosteroids and immunosuppressive agents are suggested for control of inflammatory diseases.

Many anti-inflammatory medications are indicated in the case of inflammatory reactions that cause red spots on the skin. Specific treatments are suggested for serious conditions that lead to the formation of red spots on the skin.

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