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What Is the Difference between Petechiae and Purpura?

Petechiae and purpura are both marks of bleeding under the skin. Petechiae are tiny, pinpoint-sized spots, while purpura are larger, often merging patches. These symptoms can signal various health issues, from minor injuries to serious conditions. Understanding their distinctions is crucial for health awareness. How might these skin changes be influencing your well-being? Let's explore their implications further.
Valerie Goldberg
Valerie Goldberg

Petechiae and purpura are similar, but purpura is the term used to describe any purple skin blotch caused by bleeding beneath the skin. Petechia is a sub-type of purpura that is normally caused by a physical trauma. Very small purple spots on the skin are normally petechiae, where as a purpura may be much larger.

A person should schedule a doctor's appointment if he or she believes petechiae and purpura are causing the strange markings on his or her skin. The doctor will need to run tests to see what is causing the blood vessel issues. It is possible for petechiae and purpura to occur together or separately.

Blood tests may be required to determine the cause of purple skin blotches.
Blood tests may be required to determine the cause of purple skin blotches.

Petechiae are often caused by injuries, accidents, excessive coughing or extreme bouts of vomiting. Certain medications and some types of allergic reactions also may cause petechiae. The doctor will likely ask a patient with signs of petechiae a list of relevant questions and run a complete blood count and platelet count.

Large purpuraj may be caused by vascular problems, platelet disorders, meningitis or a vitamin C deficiency. A medical professional may choose to do a skin biopsy on an area of the skin being affected by a purpura. Other tests that need to be done will depend on the patient's full list of symptoms.

Petechiae will cause small marks on the skin, while purpura will cause larger marks.
Petechiae will cause small marks on the skin, while purpura will cause larger marks.

The underlying cause of both petechiae and purpura will determine what treatments are needed. Patients who have developed the purple skin symptoms as the result of an injury may just have to wait for the spots to fade on their own. A person who tests positive for meningitis, however, will need immediate medical attention and a series of medications that may be lifesaving. Petechiae caused by an allergic reaction will typically clear up within a few days after the person stops being exposed to the allergen and is given allergy medication.

Petechiae may be caused by excessive coughing.
Petechiae may be caused by excessive coughing.

Some young children under age 7 may develop rheumatoid purpura, a form of purpura that does not typically affect adults. A majority of children's rheumatoid purpura symptoms will clear up on their own but, in some rare cases, other health problems also are present that may lead to renal failure if left untreated. Any child who develops spots that could be purpuraj should be evaluated by a pediatrician. Purpura in kids also can be caused by a syndrome called Purpura fulminans, a condition normally accompanied by vomiting and a high fever. A lumbar puncture can be done to make a diagnosis.

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Discussion Comments

kylee07drg

@orangey03 – For a child and especially for her parents, something as strange as purple spots under the skin can be frightening. When I saw a petechial rash on my daughter's neck, I grew very worried. She pointed it out to me with tears, and I called the doctor right away.

She had bronchitis at the time, so she had been coughing hard nonstop for three days. The doctor said that this was the cause of the rash.

Since she was already taking antibiotics to resolve the cause of the coughing, there was nothing to do but wait. If her rash had appeared and she hadn't been coughing so forcefully, she would have needed more tests.

The doctor seemed pretty certain of what it was, and he turned out to be right. The rash went away on its own in a week.

orangey03

Purpura fulminans is a scary condition. My niece had it right after she got over the chicken pox.

She got several small bruises on her arms and legs. She also had chills, fever, and vomiting. Her parents were very worried, so they took her to the emergency room.

The doctor gave her a lumbar puncture, and he found that it was purpura fulminans. He gave her antibiotics and a blood thinner, and she made a full recovery.

What was so scary was that he said the condition could be fatal within three days if not treated. I am so glad that her parents saw fit to take her to the hospital right away.

shell4life

I had petechiae and purpura on my leg after I punctured it with the edge of the car door. I ran into it without realizing it was open, and it hurt so much!

I saw a scattering of purple spots under my skin. They resembled clusters of stars, and some of them reached out and resembled spiders.

I wasn't worried, because I knew what had caused them. It took about a month for them to go away, which is much longer than most bruises last. I guess the damage was deeper than with a regular bruise.

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    • Blood tests may be required to determine the cause of purple skin blotches.
      By: Tim UR
      Blood tests may be required to determine the cause of purple skin blotches.
    • Petechiae will cause small marks on the skin, while purpura will cause larger marks.
      By: Niels Olson
      Petechiae will cause small marks on the skin, while purpura will cause larger marks.
    • Petechiae may be caused by excessive coughing.
      By: mbt_studio
      Petechiae may be caused by excessive coughing.
    • Purpura should be evaluated by a pediatrician.
      By: V&P Photo Studio
      Purpura should be evaluated by a pediatrician.
    • Petechiae may be caused by extreme bouts of vomiting.
      By: Lars Zahner
      Petechiae may be caused by extreme bouts of vomiting.
    • Purpura may occur as a result of medications that affect the function of platelets.
      By: piggu
      Purpura may occur as a result of medications that affect the function of platelets.
    • Children may develop rheumatoid purpura or Purpura fulminans, which causes fever and vomiting.
      By: Piotr Wawrzyniuk
      Children may develop rheumatoid purpura or Purpura fulminans, which causes fever and vomiting.