What causes red spots?

Many different diseases, disorders and conditions can cause red spots. For example, red spots can be a symptom of inflammation in the body, or they may be caused by an infection or insect bites. More serious causes include meningitis and leukemia.

Infectious causes of red spots

Red spots may be caused by an infection including:

  • Fungal infection

  • Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the sac around the brain and spinal cord)

  • Roseola (herpes virus infection in babies)

  • Strep infection, such as a group A Streptococcus infection that causes strep throat

  • Viral diseases, such as measles, rubella and chickenpox

Parasite or insect causes of red spots

Red spots can be caused by insects that leave red bite marks or burrow under the skin including:

  • Bedbugs

  • Fleas

  • Lice

  • Mosquitoes

  • Scabies (caused by mites)

  • Ticks

Allergic causes of red spots

Drug, animal, food and other environmental allergens can lead to red spots or rash. Allergens and allergic conditions that can cause red spots include:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis, such as an allergy to latex or an insect bite

  • Allergic purpura

  • Animal allergy

  • Drug reaction

  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

  • Food allergies

  • Irritant contact dermatitis, such as diaper rash

  • Poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac

Autoimmune causes of red spots

Inflammatory and autoimmune causes of red spots include:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)

  • Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels)

Other causes of red spots

Various other causes of red spots include:

  • Broken blood vessels

  • Choking or strangulation, which can cause red spots on the neck and face

  • Erythema multiforme (type of allergic reaction)

  • Erythema nodosum (inflammatory disorder)

  • Heat or sun overexposure or heat rash

  • Medications that thin the blood or decrease clotting, such as aspirin and Coumadin

  • Severe vomiting or coughing may cause red spots on the face and neck

Life-threatening causes of red spots

In some cases, red spots may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Leukemia

  • Meningitis

  • Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)

  • Thrombocytopenia

What are the potential complications of red spots?

The complications of underlying causes of red spots vary depending on the disease, disorder and condition. For example, red spots caused by a strep infection can lead to a body-wide blood infection (sepsis) or rheumatic fever. You can best reduce the risk of complications of red spots and the underlying causes by following the treatment plan you and your health care provider develop specifically for you. Complications may include:

  • Bacterial pneumonia and other secondary bacterial infections

  • Coma

  • Encephalitis

  • Hemorrhage (severe uncontrolled bleeding)

  • Organ failure

  • Pregnancy complications, such as premature birth, miscarriage, newborn infections, and birth defects

  • Respiratory arrest

  • Rheumatic fever

  • Seizures

  • Sepsis (bacterial blood infection)

  • Shock


What are red spots?

Red spots can be caused by a variety of conditions, including infections, allergic reactions, and inflammatory processes. Red spots can appear anywhere on the body.... Read more about red spotsintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with red spots?

Red spots may be accompanied by other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. For example, you may have a fever if the red spots are caused by an infectious or inflammatory process, such as measles or rubella.... Read more about red spotssymptoms

Medical Reviewer: Williams, Robert MD Last Annual Review Date: Apr 4, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

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