When a blood vessel bursts, a small amount of blood escapes from the vessel and into the body. This amount of blood may show up just beneath the surface of the skin. Blood vessels burst for many reasons, but it is mostly caused by injuries to the affected area.
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; when you let go, the redness or color returns. However, when there is bleeding into the skin, the skin will not become pale when you press down on it.
Bleeding beneath the skin is often due to a minor occurrence, such as bruising. It can appear as a small dot the size of a pinprick, or as large as an adult-sized hand. However, it may also be the sign of a serious medical condition. Bleeding into the skin that is not related to an injury should always be checked out by your doctor.
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 (inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord)
- leukemia (cancer of the blood cells)
- strep throat
- sepsis (whole body inflammation due to bacterial infection)
If you experience any of the following symptoms seek medical care immediately:
- pain in the area of bleeding
- bleeding through the skin
- darkening of the skin affected
- swelling in the extremities
If you develop bleeding into the skin with no known cause or that doesn’t go away, contact your doctor immediately, even if patches of blood are not painful.
Bleeding into the skin is easily identified by 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 may be the cause of this condition.
Answering these questions as accurately as possible will give the doctor clues as to whether medication side effects are causing bleeding under the skin, or whether it is 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 underlying 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 to treat or control these conditions and rid the body of the infection. 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.