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Red Spots on Face

Red spots on the skin can be caused by several conditions, including rosacea, telangiectasia, and allergies. Find out more about the conditions that can cause the appearance of red spots on the face in this article.
Chandramita Bora
Last Updated: Apr 19, 2018
Red spots that appear on the face can have an association with several conditions. Most often, they are harmless and disappear on their own within a couple of days. But sometimes, they can persist for a long time and become a cosmetic concern.

Some red spots or pustules on the other hand, are recurrent. They can subside for a while and then come back. In general, red spots that appear on your face do not require any medical treatment unless they produce some uncomfortable symptoms.

However, some red spots or marks can also be an indicator of certain medical conditions, which need to be properly evaluated with the help of an expert medical practitioner. Let's find out more about such spots and the conditions that may cause their development.

Conditions that can Cause Red Spots on the Face

Rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition where the skin assumes a flushed appearance due to the development of red spots and pustules on the face, especially on the cheeks, nose, and forehead. This skin condition can be aggravated by several factors, including excessive exposure to sunlight, stress, hot baths, alcohol consumption, certain foods (especially spicy foods), and some medications, like corticosteroids and drugs used for treating hypertension. Rosacea can produce the following symptoms:

✦ Facial redness
✦ Small, red bumps on the nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin
✦ Visible small blood vessels on the nose
✦ A large, red, and bulbous nose

Treatment: Rosacea is diagnosed with the help of a physical examination. Presently, there is no cure for this skin condition. Physicians usually recommend a combination of topical medications, mild cleansers and moisturizers, and certain oral antibiotics in order to control the redness and inflammation associated with rosacea. Accutane or isotretinoin is sometimes used for treating severe cases of inflammatory rosacea.

Acne

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions that can cause the appearance of red spots. Acne develops mainly due to an overactive sebaceous gland. It often leaves behind red or dark brown scars or spots. Acne can appear as non-inflammatory lesions like comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), or as inflammatory lesions such as papules, pustules, cysts, and nodules.

Comedones develop when hair follicles get clogged due to excessive production of sebum. Comedones can be open (blackheads) or closed (whiteheads). On the other hand, papules are nothing but small, red bumps that appear on the surface of the skin, while pustules appear as red and tender lesions with white pus on their tips. Nodules are usually larger than papules and pustules. They are solid and painful and develop under the skin. Cysts, on the other hand, are pus-filled closed sacs that develop beneath the skin.

Treatment: Acne is usually treated with over-the-counter topical ointments that contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, and salicylic acid. Antibiotics can be required for treating moderate to severe acne that does not respond to over-the-counter topical ointments. Severe cystic acne, on the other hand, is treated with accutane or isotretinoin.

Allergies

Next to acne, allergy is another common cause of red spots and rashes that develop on the face and other parts of the body. An allergic reaction can be triggered by environmental allergens, like dust, pollen, mites, dander, and insect stings, or by the consumption of certain foods, like soy products, dairy products, eggs, peanut, etc.

Sometimes, make-up or beauty products can also contain certain chemicals that can produce an allergic reaction. A skin rash caused by an allergic reaction can last for a few hours to several days. Apart from a red rash, allergic reactions can produce several other symptoms such as:

Itching and hives
Swelling of the lips, tongue, and face
Shortness of breath and wheezing
A runny nose

Treatment: Diagnosis of allergies can involve a detailed evaluation of the signs and symptoms, physical examination, and skin and blood tests. Allergy and allergic reactions can be prevented to a great extent by identifying and avoiding the potential allergens.

Depending on the nature and severity of the symptoms, doctors can prescribe antihistamines, corticosteroids, and decongestants for treating an allergic reaction. For a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), epinephrine injections are used. Sometimes, immunotherapy is also used for treating an allergy, especially if it does not respond to other treatment options.

Atopic Dermatitis or Eczema

Eczema or atopic dermatitis is characterized by the inflammation and irritation of the skin. It is a chronic skin condition that mainly affects children, but sometimes can continue into adulthood. Rashes or the skin pustules caused by eczema can disappear after a few days, and then come back.

What causes eczema is not known with certainty. But, it is believed that some hereditary predisposition towards developing hypersensitivity reactions, as well as a malfunctioning immune system, may be associated with this condition. Eczema or atopic dermatitis can produce the following symptoms:

Small, red or brown pustules or bumps
Itching and dryness of the skin
Clear fluid oozing out of the lesions
Thick and scaly skin
Crusting

Treatment: Eczema is usually treated with steroid ointments. Sometimes, oral corticosteroids, antihistamines, and immunomodulators can be required for the treatment of this skin condition depending on its nature and severity. Antibiotics are also prescribed if a bacterial infection develops.

Telangiectasia

Telangiectasia refers to small, dilated superficial blood vessels or capillaries on the skin and mucous membrane. Such dilated blood vessels can cause redness of the face, especially on the cheeks, nose, and chin. However, telangiectasia can also develop on other parts of the body, especially below the knee joint and upper portion of the thigh. This skin condition can be associated with rosacea, pregnancy, sun exposure, and certain inherited disorders. Women are more likely to develop telangiectasia as compared to men.

Treatment: Sclerotherapy is the conventional treatment option for telangiectasias or small varicose veins that appear on the legs. On the other hand, laser therapy is employed for treating telangiectasias of the face.

Petechia

Petechia is another condition where small red or purple spots appear on the face due to minor hemorrhaging caused by the ruptured blood capillaries under the skin. Activities like vomiting, excessive coughing, or crying can cause the appearance petechiae on the face. Generally, such red spots subside on their own within a couple of days. Sometimes, petechiae can be a symptom of low platelet count or thrombocytopenia.

Treatment: Treatment for petechia is determined by its underlying causes. If it is associated with a health condition, then treatment is directed towards alleviating that particular condition. On the other hand, if petechia is caused by an injury or trauma, then it subsides on its own without requiring any treatment. Some simple home remedies like application of cold packs or ice can help reduce the appearance of petechiae related to injury or trauma.

Measles

Measles is a contagious viral disease that almost always causes the appearance of small red spots or a skin rash. Such spots or rashes can develop all over the body including the face, and typically last for a week or so. Along with a skin rash, measles can produce several other symptoms such as:

A runny nose
Fever
Inflamed eyes or conjunctivitis
A sore throat
Light sensitivity
Development of small white spots with bluish-white centers inside the mouth

Treatment: Measles can be easily diagnosed on the basis of the characteristic skin rash that it produces. Sometimes, a blood test can also be carried out to make a definite diagnosis of this condition. Measles can be prevented with vaccination.

However, there is no cure for an already established infection. Physicians usually recommend medications to relieve the symptoms, like fever, produced by this viral disease. Sometimes, injections of immune serum globulin are given to pregnant women, newborn babies, and people with a compromised immune system who get exposed to the virus. This helps prevent and reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Lupus

If you observe a butterfly-shaped facial rash across the cheeks and bridge of your nose, then it can be a sign of lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder and its signs and symptoms (including the characteristic rash) can worsen and then completely disappear for a while. The symptoms of lupus can vary considerably from one individual to another. Nevertheless, following are some of the common symptoms of this condition:

✦ Joint pain and stiffness
✦ Fatigue and fever
✦ A butterfly-shaped facial rash
✦ Skin rash or lesions that worsen when exposed to sunlight
✦ Headaches

Treatment: Diagnosing lupus is quite difficult and it often requires a number of tests, such as complete blood count test, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, urinalysis, antinuclear antibody test, chest X-ray, echocardiogram, and biopsy. Physicians recommend various drugs to control the signs and symptoms of lupus. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, antimalarial drugs (hydroxychloroquine), and drugs that suppress the immune system are usually used to alleviate the symptoms of this autoimmune condition.

Sun Allergy

If you get red blotches or an itchy red rash on your face and other parts of the skin that have been exposed to sunlight, then it can a sign of sun allergy. The term 'sun allergy' is used for several conditions, of which sun poisoning or polymorphic light eruption is the most common condition. It is more common in Caucasians. Sun allergy can be an inherited condition, though certain medications, chemicals, and health conditions can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. The most common symptoms of sun allergy are:

✦ Redness, blisters, or hives on areas of skin exposed to sunlight
✦ Itching and pain
✦ Scaling, bleeding, and crusting on the affected area

Treatment: Sun allergy is generally diagnosed with the help of ultraviolet light testing, photopatch testing, blood test, and biopsy. Treatment for sun allergy depends on the severity of the symptoms. A mild episode of sun allergy usually resolves on its own if you avoid the sun for a few days.

But, if the symptoms are more severe, then steroid ointments and pills can be required for treating this condition. If you have severe sun allergy, then you should also limit the exposure to sunlight, and wear sun-protective clothing while going out.

Cherry Angioma

Cherry angioma is one of the common forms of angioma that causes small, bright, red spots or papules on the chest, abdomen, and face. These papules can enlarge over time and become purple in color. Such spots develop on the skin mainly due to the formation of a cluster of tiny capillaries at the skin surface. Cherry angioma can be smooth, or raised and rounded in shape resembling a dome.

Treatment: Cherry angiomas are harmless and usually do not require any treatment. But, if they bleed or become a cosmetic concern, then cryosurgery, cryotherapy, or laser therapy can be used for their removal.

Apart from the aforementioned causes, sometimes red patches or spots can be caused by bacterial or fungal infections as well. Usually, spots or rashes that appear on your face and other parts of the body will subside within a few days on their own. But, if they persist for a long time, and become a source of anxiety for you, then consult your dermatologist. He or she can properly evaluate the condition to find out the underlying causes and prevent future recurrences.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.