How often have you spotted red spots on your skin? Well, don’t be alarmed if they occur again. The wisest thing to do is pay a visit to your doctor. This is because there can be many reasons behind them - from allergic reactions to other skin conditions. The underlying cause is hard to determine without medical examination.
In this article, we list out all the possible causes of red spots and their treatments for your knowledge.
1. Pityriasis Rosea
Pityriasis rosea is an inflammatory condition that is often compared to a drooping tree because of how it looks. It usually shows up as a large, oval patch on your skin accompanied by smaller red spots on the chest, back and abdomen. The exact cause of this skin condition is still unknown. However, it is linked to a viral infection.
This condition can affect any age group. However, it usually develops in people between the ages 10-35.
- Headache, nausea and fatigue before the patch appears
- Small red spots across your back, chest or abdomen
- Itchy rash
- Scaly red spots, often with a heightened border
Pityriasis rosea usually goes away on its own within 8-10 weeks. To speed up the healing process and relieve you of symptoms, your dermatologist may prescribe topical treatments like calamine lotion. Antihistamines may also be recommended to reduce redness and itchiness. Products containing oatmeal may also help relieve your skin of symptoms (1).
Acne can be one of the major causes of the appearance of red spots on your skin. It usually affects the face, back, neck, chest and pubic area.
Acne occurs when tiny pores on your skin get clogged by dirt and bacteria. This may result in the appearance of tiny red bumps on the surface of your skin. These bumps may or may not have a head and are usually filled with pus.
- Tiny, red bumps on face, neck, back or chest
- Painful, red bumps/cysts
- Pimple-like red spots
- Usually have a white head
Treatment typically depends on the severity and type of acne. If you have a breakout every month, your doctor may recommend topical treatments like benzoyl peroxide, topical retinoids or salicylic acid (2) (3). In case of severe cystic acne, your dermatologist may recommend a topical treatment in combination with oral medication like isotretinoin or antibiotics.
Laser treatment is another most popular method to remove red marks left behind by acne. It involves the removal of the topmost layer of your skin, reducing the appearance of these marks. This process uses focused light therapy and is chemical-free.
Chemical peeling is a process involving the removal of dead skin cells and the topmost layer of your skin. Chemical peels work as exfoliators and come in three different types - superficial, medium and deep peels. Depending on the severity of your marks, your dermatologist may recommend chemical peeling as a treatment option (4).
3. Heat Rash
Just like acne, heat rashes occur when the pores in your skin get clogged with sweat, especially after constant sun exposure in highly humid weather. While traveling your skin’s surface, sweat can sometimes get blocked, causing tiny red bumps to appear.
Heat rashes most commonly show up in areas where you sweat the most and the ones where your skin is likely to rub against something. These areas include your pubic area, armpits, neckline and other areas prone to sweat.
- Red bumps on surface of skin
- Itchy and painful bumps
- Tends to reduce when skin cools down
Heat rashes usually disappear when your body cools down. To soothe irritated skin, your doctor may recommend for you to use calamine lotion or any other topical cream.
Allergic reactions occur due to immune system responses. This happens when your body or skin comes into contact with something that it considers foreign.
If you have sensitive skin, you are likely to spot red rashes on your skin every now and then. Allergic reactions can also cause red patches or red spots to develop on your skin’s surface.
- Red patches on skin
- Itchy and painful patches or spots
- Occurs when in contact with a substance
- Settles down within a few days
Your doctor may recommend a topical cream or lotion to soothe symptoms of an allergic reaction like itchy skin.
5. Drug Rash
Certain medication can be the culprit behind red rashes or spots on your skin. Any drug/medication can cause rashes. However, the most common ones occur due to the intake of antibiotics or anti-seizure drugs.
Drug rashes can lead to a condition called DRESS. This condition can cause high fever, flu-like symptoms, burning of the skin and organ damage. DRESS requires immediate medical attention.
These rashes tend to fade away when you discontinue taking the medication that caused them. Antihistamines may be recommended to reduce inflammation and other symptoms.
6. Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis occurs when your skin reacts to something it comes into contact with. This is a dry skin condition. Harsh skincare products usually cause contact dermatitis, if you have extremely dry skin.
- Red spots
- Swelling of skin
- Itchy and painful bumps/rashes
- Scaly patches of skin
Anti-itch creams are used to relieve contact dermatitis symptoms. Wet compresses are also an option to help reduce itchiness (5).
Scratching the affected area may lead to an itch-scratch cycle.
7. Diaper Rash
As the name suggests, a diaper rash occurs around the pubic or ‘diaper-covered’ area of the body. Diaper rashes are usually caused due to bacterial or yeast infections. Contact dermatitis can also contribute to the development of rashes around this area.
- Red tender-looking skin
- Occurs on buttocks, thighs and genitals
Less is more in this case. Keep the rash away from fragrances and harsh skincare products. Cleansing the rash with lukewarm water followed by the application of petroleum jelly is recommended.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. It usually affects adults. However, some children can be victims too. Psoriasis usually develops due to genetics.
When the body triggers immune system responses to fight bacteria and other foreign substances, it may sometimes overreact, causing the development of red spots and bumps on the skin. These are accompanied by scaly, itchy and painful red patches of skin.
- Scaly, itchy patches on the body
- Causes itching and burning
Various topical and oral treatments are available to relieve symptoms. Topical medications include topical corticosteroids, anthralin, topical retinoids, salicylic acid and moisturizers (6). Phototherapy is also used in some cases to treat psoriasis.
9. Lichen Planus
This skin condition has little or no evidence as to what causes it. Lichen planus is the development of raised, red or pink bumps, usually around a wound. Red, scaly spots or rashes may appear in the mouth, or on the skin.
- Red, scaly bumps or spots
- Painful or itchy rashes with sharp borders
- Ulcers on the skin
- Spots may darken in color
Your doctor may recommend antihistamines to reduce symptoms. Topical corticosteroids can also be used to treat oral lichen planus.
10. Swimmer’s Itch
This rash occurs if your body is exposed to parasite-infested water. This usually takes place in stagnant water bodies like ponds and lakes. Oceans can also be infested with parasites at times. When snails get infected with this parasite, they tend to spread it in these water bodies.
- Red, itchy rashes
- Red bumps or spots
Antihistamines may be recommended by your doctor to relieve you of symptoms. Lukewarm baths and anti-itch creams may help soothe the rash.
Word of Caution:
Although antihistamines are used to soothe symptoms, they can cause allergic reactions. Talk to your dermatologist before using antihistamines to treat your red spots or rashes. An alternative to using antihistamines is topical application of hydrocortisone cream. These are effective when used in concentrations of 1 percent.
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