Red Dots Around Eyes (Petechiae)

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What are the Red Dots Around My Eyes (Petechiae)?

Petechiae are tiny red spots on the skin. They tend to be less than 4 mm in diameter and occur because of bleeding under the skin. They resemble a rash.

Petechiae spots might also be purple or brown spots and can appear under the eyes, on the neck, or on the chest. They are caused by a variety of different things, ranging from powerful coughing to vomiting to infection.

red dots around eyes

They usually don’t cause concern, but there are some instances in which petechiae could indicate a more serious health problem. And if a child develops petechiae while they have a fever, you should immediately seek medical attention.

What Causes Petechiae?

There is a wide range of causes of petechiae, ranging from activities, medicine, and illness. Some of the most common causes of petechiae include:

  • Powerful coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Labor and childbirth
  • Lifting heavy weights
  • Viral infections, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), endocarditis, and mononucleosis
  • Bacterial infections, such as meningitis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, scarlet fever, and strep throat
  • Henoch-Schonlein purpura, a disease that causes small blood vessel inflammation 
  • Sepsis
  • Viral hemorrhagic fevers like dengue, Ebola, and yellow fever
  • Blood and immune disorders, including Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), leukemia, thrombocytopenia, and vasculitis
  • Lack of vitamins C, K, or B12
  • Reaction to certain medications, including penicillin, quinine, seizure medications, blood thinners, antidepressants, NSAIDs, sedatives, and heart rhythm drugs

SUMMARY

Petechiae are small, red dots that usually appear around the eyes. These may be caused by activities (powerful coughing, vomiting, lifting heavy weights, etc.), illnesses (viral infections, sepsis, blood disorders, etc.), and medicines (reaction to medications like NSAIDs, sedatives, blood thinners, etc.).

Can Petechiae be a Sign of Something Serious? 

Yes. Red dots around the eyes aren’t usually a symptom of anything serious, but there are times when they indicate a serious problem or arise as a dangerous side effect or warning. 

One study showed that about 25 percent of people who develop a fever and petechiae on their upper torso had a bacterial infection.

In most cases, petechiae will be one of the many symptoms indicating serious conditions. You should contact your doctor immediately if you develop red spots and also have:

  • Fever of 100.4 or higher
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Streaks under your nails
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Drastic mood changes, especially in children

You should also seek healthcare guidance if you notice the spots are increasing in size. Blood clots or bleeding into the skin is sometimes a concern when red dots appear underneath the eyes. 

Children who develop petechiae who also have a fever or any of the above symptoms should seek immediate medical care. Meningococcal infection is a common cause of petechiae.

SUMMARY

Petechiae in itself is not dangerous. However, when it is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, headache, or stiff neck, this can indicate a serious underlying condition. See a doctor immediately.

How to Prevent Petechiae Around The Eyes

It’s usually not possible to prevent petechiae, but it depends on the cause. For example, if you develop petechiae after vomiting or coughing violently, you should do what you can to avoid these activities. But it’s not always possible to control coughing or vomiting if it’s related to illness. 

If you are experiencing a bout of something that you know triggers petechiae, apply a cold compress under your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes at a time throughout the day. If a certain medication you’re taking to treat a medical condition triggers petechiae, you can speak to your doctor about alternative options. Identifying the underlying cause of petechiae helps to avoid and/or treat it.

How to Get Rid of Red Dots Under the Eyes

Petechiae usually resolve on their own after about two to three days, and there is no need for medical treatment. However, some home remedies prevent the spots from forming or help them quickly ease after they form. For example, applying cold compresses to the affected area helps reduce inflammation and eases the appearance of petechiae.

Petechiae caused by an infection clears up on its own after treating the infection.

In some cases, doctors prescribe corticosteroids or antibiotics to treat petechiae. These medicines treat infections and reduce inflammation. Immunosuppressants are also effective in treating petechiae.

If petechiae are not linked to an infection or another underlying condition, the best treatment is rest, relaxation, and plenty of water. If you experience discomfort, over-the-counter pain relievers including acetaminophen and ibuprofen are helpful.

SUMMARY

The best way to prevent activity-induced petechiae is to avoid activities that require heavy lifting or straining. If petechiae is related to illness, or if you're taking medications that cause petechiae, talk to your doctor about it. They may recommend home remedies if it's nothing serious. They may also prescribe antibiotics or corticosteroids to treat the root cause of the problem.

Common Questions and Answers

Why do I have red dots around my eyes after vomiting?

The red circles that appear under your eyes after vomiting are petechiae. They are caused by broken blood vessels that cause minor bleeding under the skin. The blood vessels burst because of the strain of vomiting. This condition is more likely to arise when vomiting is intense. Vomiting-induced petechiae tend to clear up on their own.

Why do I have red dots around my eyes after drinking?

Red dots tend to develop under your eyes after drinking alcohol because of how alcohol affects the body. The alcohol also enters your bloodstream and travels into your eyes, putting a strain on the small blood vessels or capillaries in your face. Petechiae also form if you vomit after drinking, just as they can when you vomit for any other reason.

Drinking alcohol also affects the nutrient balance in your body. Petechiae are linked to a vitamin B12 deficiency, so indirectly, if your alcohol consumption has affected your body’s B12 level, it could cause red dots to form.

Does petechiae go away on its own?

Yes, most of the time petechiae go away on their own. You can speed things along by applying cold compresses to the affected area for about 15 minutes at a time every few hours. If red dots are caused by skin conditions or an allergic reaction, you might need to see a dermatologist for treatment.

Can stress cause red dots under the eyes?

Indirectly, yes, stress can cause petechiae to form under the eyes. This is because so many people cry when they feel stressed. The harder you cry and the puffier your eyes get from crying, the more likely red dots are to form. Elevated blood pressure, which is a symptom of stress, also causes red spots.

What deficiency causes petechiae?

People with vitamin B12 deficiencies tend to have a higher risk of petechiae forming. If you believe a vitamin deficiency could be the cause of red spots, seek medical advice and discuss possible supplements or treatment options with your doctor.

Resources
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“Petechiae.” Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/petechiae/basics/definition/sym-20050724.

“Petechiae - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.” Www.Sciencedirect.com, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/petechia.

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