When a blood vessel bursts, a small amount of blood escapes from the vessel into the body. This blood may show up just beneath the surface of the skin. Blood vessels can burst for many reasons, but it usually happens as a result of an injury.
Bleeding into the skin can appear as small dots, called petechiae, or in larger, flat patches, called purpura. Some birthmarks can be mistaken for bleeding into the skin. Normally, when you press your skin it becomes pale, and when you let go, the redness or color returns. When there is bleeding into the skin, the skin will not become pale when you press down on it.
Bleeding beneath the skin often results from a minor occurrence, such as bruising. The bleeding can appear as a small dot the size of a pinprick or as a patch as large as an adult hand. Bleeding into the skin may also be the sign of a serious medical condition. Always see a doctor about bleeding into the skin that is not related to an injury.
Common causes of bleeding into the skin are:
- allergic reaction
- infections of the blood
- autoimmune disorders
- medication side effects
- chemotherapy side effects
- radiation side effects
- normal process of aging
Certain infections and diseases can cause bleeding under the skin, such as:
- meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord
- leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells
- strep throat, a bacterial infection that causes a sore throat
- sepsis, a body-wide inflammatory response to bacterial infection
If you experience any of the following symptoms seek medical care immediately:
- pain in the area of bleeding
- significant bleeding from an open wound
- a lump over the bleeding into the skin
- darkening of the skin affected
- swelling in the extremities
- bleeding gums, nose, urine, or stool
If you develop bleeding into the skin with no known cause or that doesn’t go away, contact your doctor immediately, even if the patches of blood are not painful.
Bleeding into the skin is easily identified through a visual inspection. However, to determine a cause, your doctor will need more information about the bleeding. After reviewing your medical history, your doctor will ask the following questions:
- When did you first notice the bleeding?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- When did these symptoms begin?
- Do you play any contact sports or use heavy machinery?
- Have you recently injured the affected area?
- Does the area of bleeding hurt?
- Does the area itch?
- Do you have a family history of bleeding disorders?
Your doctor will also ask if you have any medical conditions or if you’re being treated for anything. Make sure to let your doctor know if you are taking any herbal supplements or medications. Drugs such as aspirin, steroids, or blood thinners can cause bleeding into the skin. Answering these questions as accurately as possible will give your doctor clues about whether the bleeding under the skin is a side effect of medication you are taking or was caused by an underlying medical condition.
The doctor may give you a blood or urine test to check for the presence of infection or other medical conditions. If necessary, the doctor will also perform an imaging scan or an ultrasound of the area to diagnose any fractures or tissue injuries.
Depending on the cause, there are many different treatment options available for bleeding into the skin. Your doctor will determine which treatment option is best for you.
If you have any infections or medical conditions, prescription medication may be offered. This may be enough to stop the bleeding. However, if medications are causing the bleeding, your doctor may recommend switching medications or discontinuing the use of your current medication.
Contact your doctor immediately if you experience a recurrence of bleeding into the skin after treatment.
If the bleeding into the skin was caused by an injury, there are at-home treatments that can help you heal.
- elevate the injured limb, if possible
- ice the injured area for 10 minutes at a time
- use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief
Make an appointment with your doctor if your injury hasn’t started to heal.
Bleeding into the skin caused by minor injuries should heal without treatment. A doctor should evaluate bleeding into the skin that wasn’t caused by an injury. This could be a symptom of a serious condition.