Petechiae are pinpoint, round spots that appear on the skin as a result of bleeding. The bleeding causes the petechiae to appear red, brown or purple. Petechiae (puh-TEE-kee-ee) commonly appear in clusters and may look like a rash. Usually flat to the touch, petechiae don’t lose color when you press on them. Sometimes they appear on the inner surfaces of the mouth or the eyelids.

There are many conditions in which petechiae may be seen. These conditions range from very minor to very major. The common causes of petechiae include local injury and trauma, allergic reactions, autoimmune diseases, viral infections that impair blood coagulation (clotting), thrombocythemia (an abnormally low platelet level), certain medical treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), leukemia and other bone marrow malignancies that may lower the number of platelets, and sepsis (bloodstream infection). Petechiae are commonly seen right after birth in the newborn and after violent vomiting or coughing. Drugs such as the anticoagulants warfarin (Coumadin) or heparin, aspirin, and cortisone can also cause petechiae.

Symptoms of Petechiae

Well, symptoms depend on the underlying condition in addition to this petechial spots or rash. Infectious conditions are accompanied by fever, malaise, and flu-like symptoms. There are some other manifestations of the particular system involved by the infection.

The petechiae initially is red in colour. It appears in the form of individual blotches in the preliminary stages. With the passage of time, they coalescence together and then appear as a rash. The petechiae are flat spots that change their colour as the time passes.

It is a must that you see your health care practitioner promptly in case you or a family member develops petechia. It’s vital to establish the cause, given that some underlying setbacks can be potentially grave.

Special Characteristics of Petechiae

There are certain features specific to petechiae that help their earlier detection and differentiate them from other rashes and spots.


Tiny blood vessels (capillaries) link the smallest parts of your arteries to the smallest parts of your veins. Petechiae appear when capillaries bleed, leaking blood into the skin. A number of things can cause this bleeding, including:

  • Prolonged straining
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Specific types of injuries
  • Medications
  • Injuries and sunburn

Prolonged straining

Tiny petechiae of the face, neck and chest can be caused by prolonged straining during activities such as:

  1. Crying
  2. Coughing
  3. Vomiting
  4. Childbirth
  5. Weightlifting

Certain medications

Petechiae may result from taking some types of medications, including:

  1. Anticoagulants (warfarin, heparin)
  2. Atropine (Atropen)
  3. Carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Epitol, Tegretol, others)
  4. Chloral hydrate (Somnote)
  5. Desipramine (Norpramin)
  6. Indomethacin (Indocin)
  7. Naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn)
  8. Nitrofurantoin (Furadantin, Macrobid, Macrodantin)
  9. Penicillin
  10. Quinine (Qualaquin)

Infectious diseases

Petechiae may be caused by any of a number of fungal, viral and bacterial infections, including:

  1. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection
  2. Endocarditis
  3. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
  4. Meningococcemia
  5. Mononucleosis
  6. Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  7. Scarlet fever
  8. Sepsis an overwhelming bloodstream infection that uses up neutrophils faster than they can be produced
  9. Strep throat
  10. Viral hemorrhagic fevers

Other medical conditions

Petechiae may also be caused by noninfectious medical conditions. Examples include:

  1. Vasculitis
  2. Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
  3. Leukemia
  4. Scurvy (vitamin C deficiency)
  5. Vitamin K deficiency

Size of Petechiae

The size of petechiae is not more than a 3mm. These are the tiny hemorrhagic spots. These are usually 0.5 to 1 mm in diameter. Larger form of petechiae measuring greater than 3 mm is termed as purpura.

Location of Petechiae

Petechiae can appear anywhere on our body but the particular area where it is commonly seen include the legs, face, ankles, back, thigh and shoulders.

Colour of the Petechiae

Usually the initial colour of the petechiae is red. It appears in the form of a rash. Then it turns to bluish or purplish. Ultimately, its colour turns to dark purple or blue.