Tiny Red Dots on Skin

There are various medical reasons why you may have tiny red dots on skin. Some are benign, while others are more serious. In any case, you should know when you need to see a physician to seek treatment. Read on to learn more about the various scenarios.

What are some Causes of Tiny Red Dots on Skin?

Keratosis Pilaris


Keratosis pilaris (KP) causes small-sized red spots on the skin. KP is a genetic disorder that impacts the skin’s hair follicles. It may show itself as small, rough papules on the skin. The papules are sometimes called goose bumps, chicken skin or chicken bumps, and they generally will be found on the arms and upper thighs.

KP often is less a problem during the summer, but worsens in winter when the skin is drier. It is a self-limited medical problem and does usually improve as the patient ages. There isn’t a specific treatment for KP, but moisturizing creams and lotions usually make the skin feel better.

Cherry Angioma or “Red Mole”


Cherry angiomas tend to be common and they can be found anywhere on the body. They generally affect people 30 years or older, and are also called senile angiomas. The reason for their red appearance is the blood vessels broken within them.

While it’s not clear exactly what causes these tiny red dots on skin, many dermatologists believe that they may be genetic in nature. Certain people seem more susceptible to them than others.

Cherry angiomas appear more often if the patient is pregnant, and are sometimes linked to exposure to climate conditions and chemicals. They are not usually something to be concerned about, unless their shape, color or size changes. If your lesions bleed a lot, speak with your physician about it.

Rheumatic Fever


Rheumatic fever causes tiny red dots on skin, but it is actually a strep throat complication. It is more common in children than adults. If your child has swollen lymph nodes and a long-term sore throat, he may be affected. He may also have a thick, bloody nasal discharge. Contact his physician right away if he develops this symptom.

If you don’t seek treatment for strep throat promptly, it can lead to rheumatic fever. Although it generally affects children between the ages of 5 and 15, older children can also contact rheumatic fever, and so can adults. If you don’t treat it, this illness can cause serious medical issues, including permanent heart damage, stroke and even death.

To determine whether the causative bacteria are present, your child’s physician will conduct a throat culture. This procedure itself is a bit uncomfortable, but it doesn’t pose any health risks. It is a simple swab of the mucus in the throat, which is analyzed in a laboratory. It will take about one day to grow and then analyze this culture. Rapid strep tests can give the result in five minutes or so, but it isn’t as accurate a test as a throat culture.

Your child’s physician will also complete an examination. He will listen to the heart for any evidence that the valves are malfunctioning. This creates a sound known as a heart murmur. There are other signs he will check, as well. They include the tiny red dots on the skin of your child’s joints, particularly on his elbows. He may also have arthritis in one or more joints.

Once the physician confirms that rheumatic fever is what your child has, he may use one of several treatment plans:

  • Medications with anti-inflammatory properties help with the pain of rheumatic fever. Aspirin and naproxen are most commonly used.
  • Antibiotics are helpful in treating the infection itself, and in avoiding recurrence.
  • Corticosteroids help in inflammation reduction.
  • If the patient has involuntary body movements, an anticonvulsant medication may be used for as long as it is needed.

Have your child get lots of rest until the inflammation, tiny dots and pain are no longer a problem. A few weeks of rest may be needed if rheumatic fever has caused heart problems.

Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis


Leukocytoclastic vasculitis is commonly called hypersensitivity vasculitis. It involves small blood vessel inflammation. The term leukocytoclastic refers to immune cell debris in the blood vessel walls. This disease can affect not just your skin, but also other body organs, including the kidneys, lungs, heart, gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system.


When this disease affects the skin, you will notice blood vessels that are damaged and leaky. This results in areas of tiny red dots on skin, known as palpable purpura. The lesions are especially common on your legs. They usually cause no effects, other than occasional itching and pain.

If the blood vessel inflammation is more severe, you may develop ulcerated blisters, which are larger than the dots, and these can be painful. The disease can also result in other health issues, like coughing, numbness, weakness, blood in your urine, fever, muscle aches, abdominal pain and vomiting.


Your physician will check your full medical history and determine the optimal treatment for your case of leukocytoclastic vasculitis.

If foods, drugs or infection are causing the dots, they will diminish when these are removed from the picture. In chronic or recurring cases, your physician will need to consider other factors. You may be prescribed immunosuppressant agents or corticosteroids if this disease has already spread to internal organs.



When you see round, pinpoint sized tiny red dots on skin, these may be petechiae. They develop after bleeding occurs, so they may appear purple or brown, as well as red. They sometimes appear rash-like, in clusters. The spots will remain the same color, even when pressed on. They may even appear inside your mouth or on the eyelids.

Even though it is common to see petechiae, they can be caused by different medical conditions. Most common are viral infections, trauma, autoimmune diseases, local injuries or allergic reactions.

Some medical procedures, including radiation and chemotherapy, as well as leukemia and other malignancies in bone marrow may cause the appearance of petechiae. Some drugs can cause petechiae, too, including aspirin and heparin. Petechiae is quite common in newborn children, and it can become more prominent if you experience violent bouts of vomiting.


If you have an infection that is causing the formation of petechiae, your physician may prescribe antibiotics. If your spots are from injuries to your capillaries, then cold compresses or ice packs are helpful.