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Red Spots on Skin, Tiny, Flat or Raised, Itchy or Not, Causes & Treatment

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Red spots on skin may appear as dots, patches or blood spots that are flat or raised. They may look like round dots or blotches, dry spots or splotches on some parts or all over the body. The dark red or bright red spots may be itchy or not itchy.  Although they may be large, they are usually small, tiny or pinpoint. This post presents facts, pictures, causes, signs, and symptoms of red spots on skin. Furthermore, it highlights how to get rid of and prevent them with medical treatments and home remedies.

What Are Red Spots on Skin?

Red spots on skin are not signs and symptoms of one specific skin condition. Rather, they are an indication of one or more of the several conditions that may cause the skin to develop red spots.

Red spots on skin - swimmers itch
Red spots on skin: swimmers itch

Signs and Symptoms of Red Spots on Skin

Red spots may occur as flat or raised tiny dots, small round splotches or large blotchy patches. Typically, red spots are accompanied by many other signs and symptoms depending on their causes. Common ones include one or more of the following:

  • itchiness (some are not itchy)
  • dry skin
  • scaly texture
  • flaky texture
  • bumps or bumpy texture
  • Blisters, which may ooze and scab

Causes of Red Spots on Skin

There are very many factors that can lead to red spots on your skin. They range from infections (bacterial, viral or fungal), various skin conditions, insect bites or stings to environmental factors. The common causes include:

1. Acne vulgaris

Acne is a skin condition that is characterized by pimples (papules and pustules) comedones (whiteheads and blackheads), cysts and nodules. Some forms of acne, especially papules are inflamed, painful and red. Acne occurs primarily on the face, but also on the neck, chest, and back.

Severe forms of acne such as nodular acne and cystic acne may also cause the skin to become inflamed with oily bumpy blotches. Acne is basically caused by clogged hair follicles due to various factors. These include hormonal changes, oily skin, poor diet and hereditary factors.

The common home remedies for acne include tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, aloe vera and olive oil. Doctors treat cane with over the counter medications such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur, retin-A and azelaic acid. Prescription medications include oral and topical antibiotics such as tetracycline. Isotretinoin is chiefly used in to treat severe acne.

2. Dermatitis (Eczema)

Dermatitis or eczema is a general term that refers to a condition characterized by inflamed, itchy, red and dry skin. In some individuals, the skin may also blister, weep, and/or peel. It can occur virtually in any part of the skin but is common on scalp, face, breast, arms, hands, feet and legs.

Dermatitis does not refer to any specific disease but rather a group of conditions. Types of eczema include atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and stasis dermatitis (also called venous, gravitational or varicose eczema). Other types are dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis.

Doctors do not know the exact cause of eczema. However, researchers have established that combination of genetic and environmental factors could be triggering it. There is no known cure for eczema. Hence, treatment aims to mainly manage symptoms i.e. reduce inflammation, relieve itching and avoid triggers.

3. Boils (Sebaceous Abscesses)

A boil is a sebaceous abscess (an abscess that occurs under the skin). Boils are typically inflamed, very painful pus-filled lumpy lesions that usually surrounded by reddened skin. A boil that occurs individually is referred to as a furuncle. When boils occur in a cluster they constitute a carbuncle.

Boils develop due to a bacterial infection of the hair follicles, especially due to Staphylococcus bacterium. Boils can be treated using antibacterial topical medications and home remedies. To make them heal faster, you may need to drain them in addition to antibacterial medications.

4. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition characterized by “a thick, patchy, red rash with silvery, white scales” [WedMD]. This disease basically causes extra cells to rapidly build up on the surface of the affected skin area.

This condition can occur on any part of the skin. However, it tends to appear on the scalp, elbows, knees and the lower back. Usually, the affected skin is usually itchy and sometimes painful.

Psoriasis is a chronic disease that is usually on and off. It is not curable and the goal of treatment is to stop the rapid growth the skin cells. Common lifestyle remedies include moisturizing, managing stress and quitting smoking.

Red spots on skin: acne, eczema, boil & psoriasis
Red spots on skin: acne, eczema, boil and psoriasis

5. Allergy (Allergic Reaction)

An allergy is an undesirable exaggerated reaction of the immune system to certain environmental conditions. Although allergies may trigger certain symptoms, including red spots on the skin, they are generally harmless medically. Allergens (allergy factors) include pollen, some foods, certain medications, and insect bites and stings.

Various allergens cause different reactions to different individuals and have no effect on others. Usually, allergies are best managed by avoiding the allergens. However, some medications and home remedies can help relieve the symptoms.

6. Insect Bites or Stings

When some insect bite or sting you, they inject venom into your skin. Normally, this will cause a minor irritation that results in itchiness inflammation and reddening of the skin. However, some may cause serious allergic reactions that may require urgent medical attention.

Common insects that bite causing inflammation include some ants, spiders while those that sting include bees and wasps. Depending on the particular insect that bites or stings and the reaction of your body, the lesions can be treated with home remedies. However, others may necessarily require you to visit a doctor for treatment.

7. Burns

A burn on skin may result from heat, electricity or chemicals or UV rays from the sun (sunburn). Regardless of the degree of the burn, it is usually manifested by reddened and inflamed skin and fluid-filled blisters around the wound. Treatment of burns depends on the type, depth and area affected.

8. Blunt Injury (Blunt Trauma)

You get a blunt injury also called blunt trauma through an impact, pinch or twist on your body. Usually, this causes the affected skin to become red, painful, and inflamed.

Minor blunt injuries such as hickeys are treated using home remedies such as cold compress. They can also be treated with topical or oral painkillers, which primarily soothes pain ask the wound recovers. Major blunt injuries require medical attention from the doctor because they may entail internal organ injury.

Red spots on skin: burn, blunt trauma, insect bites & allergy
Red spots on skin: burn, blunt trauma, insect bites and allergy

9. Fifth Disease (Erythema Infectiosum)

Fifth disease, also known as Erythema infectiosum, is a contagious viral infection caused by parvovirus B19. It primarily affects young children of about 5-15 years but they quickly recover without complications.

It is characterized by a bright red rash on the face, which a few days later spreads to the trunk, arms, and legs. It usually lasts 1 to 3 weeks. It begins with low fever, headache, and mild cold-like symptoms before the red rash appear.

10. Lupus

Lupus is an inflammatory disease as a result of the immune system attacking its own tissues. Symptoms include fever, painful and stiff joints, and red butterfly-shaped rash on face.

11. Purpura (Blood Spots)

Purpura, also called red spots or skin hemorrhage refers to red or purple spots of blood on the skin. It occurs as a result of blood pooling into the skin tissue when the small blood vessels burst.  The spots range in size from small dots to large patches

It is caused by various disorders including weak or inflamed blood vessels, blood clotting disorders and some diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.

12. Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus.  It is typically a childhood disease that chiefly affects babies and toddlers but adults may also contract it from the children since it is very contagious.

It is characterized by a very itchy rash of red spots and blisters all over the body.  Afterwards, the blisters pop and ooze. The fluid dries up to form scabs and later hard crusts before them eventually heal.

Red spots on skin: fifth disease, lupus, purpura (blood spots) & chickenpox
Red spots on skin: fifth disease, lupus, purpura (blood spots) & chickenpox

13. Scabies

Scabies is a skin disease caused by the infestation by the itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei. It is a very contagious disease which can also be sexually transmitted.

It is characterized by severe and persisted itchiness that worsens at night.  Other symptoms include a skin rash with small red bumps and blisters and tiny red burrows on the affected area of skin.

Doctors treat oral or topical using special scabicidal drugs. It important to note that over-the-counter remedies or home remedies are not effective in curing scabies.

14. Hives (Urticarial)

Hives or urticarial refers to a skin condition characterized by red, itchy, raised bruises or welts plaques. They form when blood plasma leaks out of small blood vessels in the skin due to the production of a body chemical called histamine.

They can have various dynamic shapes and sizes. They typically the flare up suddenly and may change location on the skin. Hives can appear anywhere on the skin including the face, lips, ears, tongue, and throat.

15. Shingles

Shingles is a viral infection that caused by varicella-zoster virus.  It usually appears as a stripe of blisters on your left or right torso.  It is characterized by itching, pain, burning, numbness, tingling. Later, a red rash and fluid-filled blisters that crust develop.

16. Tinea (Ringworm)

Tinea or ringworm is a fungal infection that usually affects a localized area of the skin. It is characterized by a bumpy circular red rash with white flaky scales.It has a ring-like appearance hence the name ringworm.

There are various types of tinea basically classified by the part of the skin it affects or their appearance. Common ones include Tinea pedis (foot), Tinea unguium (nails), Tinea manuum (hand), Tinea cruris (groin), Tinea capitis (scalp), Tinea faciei (face), Tinea barbae (beard and Tinea versicolor (various colors).

Red spots on skin: scabies, hives (urticarial), shingles, & tinea (ringworm)
Red spots on skin: scabies, hives (urticarial), shingles and tinea (ringworm)

17. Measles

Measles is a viral infection that begins with fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, and sore throat, followed by a rash that spreads all over the body. It is highly contagious and usually spreads by air through coughing and sneezing.

18. Rosacea

Rosacea is a common skin condition that usually begins with a tendency to flush more readily. The redness may then gradually spread from the nose to cheeks, forehead, and chin. The redness can also show up on the ears, chest, and back. 

Other symptoms include visible blood vessels, acne-like breakouts, bumpy skin and irritated and red eyes. With time, the redness may become permanent at the center of the face.

There is no clear cause of rosacea. Doctors treat the condition with medicine or laser therapy. You can reduce flare-ups by avoiding triggers, sun protection, being gentle with your skin and using mild skin care products

19. Pityriasis Rosea

Pityriasis Rosea is common skin disease causes a red rash in form of scaly patches on the skin. It starts with large itchy patches (mother patches) and later smaller patches (daughter patches) develop.

The patches usually appear chest, abdomen, back, arms, and legs but very rarely on the face, scalp, palms, or soles. Doctors do not know what causes pityriasis rosea. Usually, this rash goes away on its own without any treatment after about 6 to 8 weeks.

20. Scarlet Fever (Scarlatina)

Scarlet fever, also known as scarlatina, is a bacterial infection that may develop people who have strep throat. It is caused by the streptococcal bacteria, which also causes strep throat.

Typical symptoms include a sore throat, high fever and a bright red rash on most parts of the body. You also develop a strawberry tongue, flushed face and red lines in the skin folds of the neck, groin, armpits, elbows, and knees. Doctors treat scarlet fever with antibiotics and various lifestyle and home remedies.

Red spots on skin: measles, rosacea, pityriasis rosea & scarlet fever (scarlatina)
Red spots on skin: measles, rosacea, pityriasis rosea and scarlet fever (scarlatina)

21. Impetigo

Impetigo is a highly contagious skin infection that is common in infants and young children (2-5 years). It is caused by Staphylococcus (staph) and Streptococcus (strep) bacteria.

It is characterized by a red rash of small blisters or sores on the face, particularly around nose and mouth, and on hands and feet. Doctors easily treat impetigo with prescription antibiotics – topical or oral.

22. Intertrigo

Intertrigo also called, intertriginous dermatitis, is an inflammatory condition that particularly affects skin folds. It is triggered or aggravated by heat, moisture, friction, and inadequate air circulation.

It begins with itching, pain, burning, and stinging on the affected skin. It is characterized by papules and/or plaques and weeping ulcers, crust and fissures. Doctors treat it with drying agents but may use antimicrobials in case it is infected.

23. Roseola (Sixth Disease)

Roseola also known as sixth disease, is a common mild viral skin disease that chiefly affects young children. It usually resolves on its own without any treatment.

Symptoms start with a sudden high fever for 3-5 days, usually accompanied by mild nasal congestion and loose stool. Thereafter, a red skin rash that may last for 1-2 days occurs.

24. Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)

Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) is a disorder that causes easy or excessive bruising and bleeding, usually due to low platelets (cells that trigger blood clot).

It is characterized by a rash with pinpoint reddish-purple spots, particularly on the lower legs. Other symptoms include nose and gum bleeding, blood in urine and stool and a heavy menstrual discharge.  Treatments may include medication that boosts platelet level or surgery to remove your spleen.

Red spots on skin: impetigo, intertrigo, roseola (sixth disease), & idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (itp)
Red spots on skin: impetigo, intertrigo, roseola (sixth disease), and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (itp)

Other Possible Causes of Red Spots on Skin

Kawasaki Disease: a rare disease in children that affects blood vessels. Symptoms include fever, red eyes, red body rash, inflamed red and cracked lips and tongue, and swollen red hands and feet. It can harm the coronary arteries and the heart.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: This is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks itself causing inflammation in the protective membrane inside the joints. Symptoms include irritated rash red and ulcers on legs, fever, malaise, appetite loss and weight loss.

Meningococcemia: This a bacterial infection caused by Neisseria meningitides bacteria, which also causes meningitis. Symptoms include fever, headache, nausea and a rash of small red spots or patches on various parts of the skin.

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome: Also called herpes zoster oticus, it occurs when a shingles outbreak affects the facial nerve near one of your ears. It is caused by varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.  Symptoms include a red rash on face, facial paralysis, and loss of hearing in the affected ear.

Diaper Rash: It is caused either by yeast infections or contact dermatitis. It is characterized by red and irritated rash around the diaper area. You can manage it by frequent diaper changes, use of creams such as Vaseline or Desitin, and exposing a baby to the open air.

Heat rash: It referee to the inflammation that occurs on the skin when sweat produced cannot get to the surface of the skin and evaporate. This is because the sweat glands of the skin are blocked. It is characterized by red bumps and prickly or itchy sensation on the skin (prickly heat).

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease: It is a contagious mild viral infection caused by coxsackievirus A16 and usually affects young children. It is manifested by fever, sores in mouth, and a red rash that is not itchy on hands and feet.

Skin contact with substances: For example, when your skin comes in contact with poisonous plants such as poison oak, poison ivy, poison sumac, it usually develops an itchy red rash.

Telangiectasia: This is a condition in which widened the tiny blood vessels. This causes painful and itchy threadlike red lines or web-like patterns to appear on the skin. Symptoms include frequent nose bleeds reddish or dark blood in stool seizures and mild strokes.

Swimmer’s itch: It is also called cercarial dermatitis and it appears as a skin rash. It is caused by an allergic reaction to certain microscopic parasites that infect some animals. The parasites are usually released from infected snails into water bodies such as ponds, lakes and the ocean.

More causes include hemangiomas, some moles or birthmarks, bleeding disorders, keratosis pilaris, and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Likewise, genital herpes, genital warts, staph infection, syphilis, Lyme disease, skin cancer and rubella may also cause red spots on the skin.

Red spots on skin Itchy or Not Itchy

Generally, most red spots or patches on the skin are typically itchy with to various degrees. However, some individuals may experience itchiness while others do not for the same cause.

The typical exceptions in which red spots might not be itchy include conditions such as birthmarks, some moles, keratosis pilaris, and ‘hand, foot and mouth disease’.

Summary of Causes of Red Spots on Skin

The conditions that cause of red spots on skin can be summarized by using the following categories, depending on their general characteristics:

  • Usually, chickenpox and measles cause red spots all over the body. But if sudden red spots appear on skin, the likely cause is roseola or hives.
  • The usual conditions that cause small or tiny (pinpoint) red spots of skin include meningococcemia, scabies, impetigo and purpura (blood Spots), On the other hand, large red spots on skin are usually caused by pityriasis rosea, eczema, and some birthmarks
  • Dry red spots on skin are typically due to rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and ringworm. On the other hand, bright red spots on skin may be due to scarlet fever and fifth disease. If they are dark red, they might be due to some birthmarks or moles.
  • Red blotches of skin may appear due to severe acne, eczema, and psoriasis. On the other hand, random red splotches on skin are an indication of conditions such as allergic reactions, rosacea, and severe acne
  • Flat Red spots on Skin are typically as a result of some birthmarks, moles and allergies. On the other hand, raised red spots on skin are an indication of conditions such as eczema, ringworm hives, acne, scabies, rosacea and heat rash. In addition, some moles, birthmarks and allergies might be raised.

How to Get Rid of Red Spots on Skin

To get rid of red spots on your skin, you first need to determine the cause, whether it is environmental or an underlying condition. When the cause is not clear, see your doctor for definitive diagnosis because there are very many possible causes of red spots on skin. Depending on the cause, various measures, home remedies, and medical treatments may be used to treat or manage the condition.

Home Remedies

You can use various home remedies to get rid of red spots on your skin if the cause is clear and mild. Examples of mild conditions include some insect bites or stings and certain allergic reactions. Home remedies may include over-the-counter medications, herbs, and warm or cold compresses. Specific home remedies are detailed under posts for each particular cause of the red spots on skin.

Medical Treatment

Medical treatment will be inevitably necessary in case of serious conditions such as skin cancer. Your doctor will then use appropriate medications and therapies to treat or manage the underlying causes of the red spots. These medical interventions will help clear or at least relieve the red spots and the related symptoms, depending on whether they are curable.

When to see a doctor

The best practice is to visit your doctor soon after you develop red spots on your skin. This especially necessary if you do not know the cause even if they do not cause distress. You do not need to wait for the condition to worsen in order to take this action. However, you may need to visit your doctor over red spots on your skin if:

  • You develop sudden red spots for unknown reasons.
  • The red spots are spreading to other parts of the skin.
  • The accompanying symptoms such as pain, itchiness or burning, which are causing you distress.
  • There are blisters that are weeping and/or peeling
  • The spots or accompanying symptoms are not improving or can’t go away after about two weeks

Pictures of Red Spots on Skin

The images inserted at various sections of this article are for learning purposes only. They should not be used for self-diagnosis. Instead, visit your doctor for definitive diagnosis and proper treatment of your skin condition.

Sources and References
  1. Red Spots on the Skin: Symptoms & Signs: https://www.medicinenet.com/red_spots_on_the_skin/symptoms.htm
  2. An Overview of the Different Types of Eczema: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/
  3. Red spots on skin: Pictures, causes, treatment: https://www.firstderm.com/red-spots-skin-pictures-causes-treatment/
  4. Red Pinpoint Bumps on the Skin: https://www.livestrong.com/article/302015-red-pinpoint-bumps-on-the-skin/
  5. What is causing my rash?  https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317999.php
  6. What Are These Tiny Red Spots on My Skin (Petechiae)? https://www.doctorshealthpress.com/skin-care-articles/tiny-red-spots-on-skin/
  7. Red spots and Skin rash: https://symptomchecker.webmd.com/multiple-symptoms?symptoms=red-spots%7Cskin-rash&symptomids=271%7C185&locations=7%7C68
  8. Red spots on skin, but not itchy? Find out the common causes: https://www.skinvision.com/articles/red-spots-on-skin-but-not-itchy-find-out-the-common-causes

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