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Small red spots on skin

Updated on July 16, 2013

Small red spots on skin are considered as one of the most common types of skin conditions. Most skin ailments elicit tiny red spots on skin as a key symptom. The red spots can occur at any part of the body. Occasionally, the location of the spots can help in identifying the cause of the skin abnormality.

In most cases, small red spots on skin are generally harmless. It is however necessary to keep a lookout for aggravation or additional symptoms. The harmless skin condition can sometimes signify the presence of a life-threatening condition, or it may serve as a warning sign for the onset of a disease.

Patients may experience small red spots on skin along with pain, itchiness, inflammation, etc. A few of these spots also consist of fluids. Patients can also experience the skin disorder without any additional symptoms, and such spots may remain for a lifetime without showing any changes in appearance. Individuals who develop small red spots on skin during adulthood should seek medical attention for diagnosis, even if they think that it is harmless.

Causes of small red spots on skin

  • Acne: The spots of acne are brown or red in color. They are flattened and known as ‘macules.’ Macules refer to the scars which remain on the affected skin after healing of acne. Such marks are not permanent and disappear with the passage of time. Exposure to sun may however prolong the recovery.
  • Petechiae or blood spots:Small red or purplish spots on skin may signify the presence of petechiae. The small red dots initially affect the legs and then migrate to other parts of the body. Vigorous coughing, trauma, etc., can lead to bleeding of the capillaries into the skin’s mucous membranes, which results in the appearance of small red spots on skin.
  • Birthmarks: Also referred to as hemangioma, birthmarks are colored spots that are immediately noticeable post birth. They can also form later in life. Birthmarks are usually associated with the blood vessels. They can be easily differentiated from other small red spots on skin, as they normally form during early childhood.
  • Dermatofibromas: They appear as tiny, solid, brown, or reddish lumps. Dermatofibromas are caused due to buildup of soft tissues known as fibroblasts. They mostly occur on the trunk and legs. In case the skin condition occurs along with pain or itchiness, then patients must seek medical help.
  • Rosacea:Rosacea has no known causes. It is however understood that the skin anomaly runs in the family. In most cases, individuals with very fair skin experience this skin condition. A cluster of reddish, pimple-like pustules develop on the skin along with a flushed facial appearance.
  • Pyogenic granulomas: It is caused due to excessive growth of blood capillaries and normally affects children. The extensive buildup of blood vessels leads to development of small red spots on skin. Such spots may also appear brownish, purplish, or bluish. They are mostly caused due to injury or trauma that has led to blood vessel damage. The condition has no genetic causes and is not cancerous. Its exact cause is however still a subject of research.
  • Folliculitis: It is a fairly common skin condition identified by the presence of small red bumps around hair follicles. The number of such red lumps can range from 10 to 100, which are dispersed on a specific area of the body. The skin rash may occur at any place which experiences hair growth. The rash is normally spread by bacteria.
  • Hives: The appearance of small red spots on skin may also be hives. Hives look like smooth, raised wheals which appear on the skin. Their size varies greatly. Some hives may measure only a few millimeters while others may grow up to a few inches. Hives can rapidly change their position and size. Drug allergies, bee stings, etc. are some of the common triggers for hives. Most patients have a hereditary tendency to develop hives.
  • Heat rash:It is also called prickly heat rash or sweat rash. Heat rash is one of the most widespread causes of small red spots on skin. They form due to clogging of the sweat glands which prevent the elimination of sweat from beneath the skin. The trapped sweat then causes the development of tiny lumps on the skin. Creases on the skin, tight apparels, etc. are common triggers of heat rash.
  • Measles: It is a viral infection and highly contagious. The symptoms of measles appear a week after the initial infection. Patients will elicit grayish-white spots in the oral cavity at first, and after a couple of days, small red spots begin to form on the skin. In addition to the skin abnormalities, affected individuals may also suffer from watery eyes, fever, sore throat, fatigue, etc.
  • Insect bites: Nasty mosquito bites can also result in small red spots on skin. Bed bug bites can cause red abnormal patches on skin. Mite, flea, ant, and lice bites may also occur as small red spots on skin. In some cases, insect bites may be accompanied by pain and itchiness, or they can trigger allergic reactions.

Treatment of small red spots on skin

There is no one particular way to treat small red spots on skin due to the varying causes. Hence, all patients must consult a doctor for diagnosis and remedial measures. Treatment of small red spots on skin is focused at finding the underlying cause of the skin ailment and then treating it.

  • If the skin condition is a recent development, then you may check for changes in the usual diet, detergents, cosmetics, soaps, etc. which may have triggered an allergic skin reaction.
  • Heat rashes can be treated with the application of aloe vera leaves which can alleviate the inflammation and cool the skin. An oatmeal bath will also allow a patient to get relief.
  • Moisturizing creams and lotions help in easing the itchiness
  • Avoid tight clothing or use of non-porous fabrics. This will allow the skin to breathe and reduce skin irritation
  • Patients may also use non-prescription antihistamines, Benadryl, or anti-itch creams to find relief
  • Patients should avoid waxing or shaving the affected areas. Personal items like bed sheets, towels, etc. should not be shared with others. This will help limit contamination and prevent worsening of infections.


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