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What is a Petechial Hemorrhage?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A petechial hemorrhage is a form of mild hemorrhage which causes distinctive markings known as petechiae. These markings take the form of small red to purple spots which can vary in size and distribution from a few tiny markings to an array which may look like a rash or abrasion. Petechiae can be caused by a variety of situations and conditions, and they can play a role in both forensic science and medical diagnosis.

This condition emerges when the capillaries near the surface of the body burst, causing small red marks to appear near the site of the rupture. The marks may persist for several days before fading away as the body heals itself, and they can be indicative of a number of medical issues.

Fans of crime novels and criminal television shows may be familiar with one of the most famous forms of this type of hemorrhage, the sort discovered by the medical examiner or hero which proves that someone was asphyxiated. When people are asphyxiated, a classic petechial hemorrhage develops in the eyes as the blood vessels burst, and petechiae may appear around the face as well. Although the coroner always seems to find these markings right away in fiction, in actuality it takes a good eye and a strong light source, as the tiny markings can be very hard to identify.

People can also experience a petechial hemorrhage as a result of trauma to an area of the skin, such as that caused by intense pressure or a sharp blow. Victims of the prank known as the "Indian burn" may have noticed this type of hemorrhage at the site caused by trauma to the skin, as have people who have been grasped firmly by someone else. Recurrent markings can suggest that someone has a low platelet count or a clotting disorder which interferes with vascular pressure.

Petechial hemorrhaging can also occur when someone has a seizure, or as a symptom of a disease. A number of conditions have been associated with this type of hemorrhage, ranging from hemorrhagic fevers to typhus. Many diseases which cause fever can be associated with these little red markings.

The appearance of a petechial hemorrhage is not necessarily cause for alarm or panic, as it can be caused by a variety of factors. If the markings do not go away or they grow worse, however, it can be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition which requires attention. These markings can also indicate that someone is experiencing recurrent physical abuse.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon940684 — On Mar 19, 2014

@anon346249: Check out the American Cancer Society. The signs for Leukemia are pretty straightforward and your blood doc will be able to diagnose.

Myself? I just got diagnosed with ITP last week and it still hasn't sunk in. I go for some random blood work for a physical, the doctor noticed a petechial rash and rushed me to the hospital to avoid brain bleeding.

Hope your niece comes out fine. ITP in children is generally not permanent.

By anon346249 — On Aug 27, 2013

My niece is three, and was just rushed to Riley Children's Hospital. They diagnosed her with petichial hemorrhaging. Her platelets are low, white cells are low, and they told us this could lead to leukemia. Where can I learn more about what she has? Does anyone have any ideas?

By anon319066 — On Feb 10, 2013

I get petechial rash around my eyes after a migraine. Is this normal?

By anon310898 — On Dec 27, 2012

I have a red flat dot on my nose, about 2mm in diameter and it has been there for months but when I apply pressure to it, the color goes skin color. Could this be petechiae?

By anon154916 — On Feb 22, 2011

My daughter vomited yesterday as we were driving after taking doxicyclene. Today she woke up with pin point veins under and around her eyes. Many of them in fact. Is this just from vomiting one time? Or an allergy to the medication perhaps?

By anon108652 — On Sep 03, 2010

I'm not a doctor, but from everything I have read the answer would be yes. But, if that is all that caused it, it should go away in a few days.

By anon89507 — On Jun 10, 2010

@anon39915: yes they can. basically it can happen due intense strain on your body that causes blood vessels to burst.

By Nyspice89 — On May 28, 2010

Cecum petechial hemorrhages. Can this be a cause of lower abdominal pain?

By anon77749 — On Apr 15, 2010

No, they can't.

By anon39915 — On Aug 05, 2009

can petechial hemorrhages occur due to vomiting in pregnancy?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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