See spots run?
August 4, 2010 12:36 PM   Subscribe

What could be causing these tiny, red pinprick dots on my skin?

I've been noticing these really tiny, flat, discrete, bright red spots on my skin, mostly on my arms and hands. I have maybe a dozen right now. They look like petechiae, only I recently had a checkup including blood work, so I'm pretty sure I don't have any of the horrible diseases listed on the Wikipedia page. While the spots themselves don't hurt or itch, all of my skin's been really itchy for the past week or so due to what I think is an allergic reaction to either dust mites or my laundry detergent (I'm working on figuring out which). Basically, I've been scratching myself a lot. I'm not breaking the skin, but could I be giving myself petechiae? Less ideally, is there some sort of mite or bug that has really tiny bites that normally look like this*? Or are tiny, bright red spots normal on pale skin, and I'm just noticing them now? I'm going to see a dermatologist pretty soon anyway, but I need a referral so it'll take a little while. Any ideas?

*I've read all the bed bug literature that says that bites present differently on different people, but aside from the fact that I've never seen a bug, blood stains, eggs, etc. (and I've looked), I have sensitive enough skin that when I get bug bites they puff up, get red, and itch like hell locally. I'd be really surprised if I didn't have a more dramatic reaction to bed bug bites.
posted by oinopaponton to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's the scratching. You don't have to break the skin to cause tiny blood vessels under the skin to be disturbed.
posted by cecic at 12:38 PM on August 4, 2010

I had a bad reaction just like this to laundry detergent that had fabric softener in it already--Tide With a Touch of Downy or something. I itched all over with little spots like that.

Also, I can get those red spots from heat--both hot weather or hot water, like in a whirlpool. It just looks weird, and goes away eventually.
posted by chocolatetiara at 12:44 PM on August 4, 2010

It sounds like heat rash to me.
posted by phunniemee at 12:52 PM on August 4, 2010

Probably harmless cherry angiomas. My partner and I both have them, and I've actually asked my doctor about them -- she said they increase as you age and there's nothing to worry about.
posted by mendel at 1:16 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

How recently did you have your checkup? Did the doctor look at the spots? If they weren't there yet, it's probably time for another trip to the doctor.

My knowledge of petechiae (I have an autoimmune disorder) is that it's usually nothing but you should get them checked out anyway. The doctor might do tests on you that they wouldn't usually do, like an ANA, or refer you to a specialist besides a dermatologist.

I really hesitate to say "it's just a skin rash" without even looking at it! Even if I could look at it, I'm not a doctor.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:18 PM on August 4, 2010

Could they be from exercise-induced capillaritis? I think spots from this more commonly appear on the legs but I have had them (or what I think is them) on my arms.
posted by lakeroon at 1:21 PM on August 4, 2010

Response by poster: I saw the doctor about a month ago, and the spots only showed up with the itching and the scratching about a week ago. I need to get some moles checked out anyway, so I'll mention the spots when I see a dermatologist.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:22 PM on August 4, 2010

Okay. I have had every rash known to man with super pale sensitive skin. On the other hand, even normal non-dermatologist doctors don't know that much about different rashes so I hate to guess (sorry).

Sometimes being hit/hit with something can cause those kinds of tiny bruises but then they're usually in an obvious clump.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:30 PM on August 4, 2010

I get similar spots to what you describe, from scratching -- and I don't break the skin, either. When I was in college, a nurse told me the spots were broken capillaries, and told me to cut out the vigorous scratching.

In other words, what cecic said.
posted by Coatlicue at 1:43 PM on August 4, 2010

I also have a few of the cherry hemangioma's that mendel mentions above. (Thanks! I never knew the term for these.)

I have them on my chest, belly and back. The skin texture is perfectly indistinguishable from the nearby normal skin. There's no pain or discomfort. They've never been associated with a rash or abrasion or anything else I've noticed. I have more now than I did when I was a kid.

They're just odd little bright red dots.
posted by General Tonic at 2:09 PM on August 4, 2010

I get petechiae when I do handstands or lots of yoga or pushups. It's very easy to get them from exercising.
posted by Cygnet at 2:26 PM on August 4, 2010

If you need to scratch, use a hair brush to do it instead of your fingernails. It feels better and it's less likely to break the skin and cause bleeding.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:43 PM on August 4, 2010

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