A petechia, plural petechiae, is a small (1–2 mm) red or purple spot on the skin, caused by a minor bleed from broken capillary blood vessels.
Petechia refers to one of the three descriptive types of bleeding into the skin differentiated by size, the other two being purpura and ecchymosis. Petechiae are by definition less than 3 mm.
The term is almost always used in the plural, since a single lesion is seldom noticed or significant.
- Coughing, holding breath, vomiting, crying - The most common cause of petechiae is through physical trauma such as a hard bout of coughing, holding breath, vomiting or crying, which can result in facial petechiae, especially around the eyes. Such instances are harmless and usually disappear within a few days.
- Constriction, Asphyxiation - Petechiae may also occur when excessive pressure is applied to tissue (e.g., when a tourniquet is applied to an extremity or with excessive coughing or vomiting).
- Sunburn, childbirth, weightlifting
- Gua Sha, a Chinese treatment that scrapes the skin
- High-G training
- Choking Game
- Oral sex
Petechiae on the face and conjunctiva (eyes) can be a sign of a death by asphyxiation, particularly when involving reduced venous return from the head (such as in strangulation). Petechiae are thought to result from an increase of pressure in the veins of the head and hypoxic damage to endothelia of blood vessels.
Petechiae can be used by police investigators in determining if strangulation has been part of an attack. The documentation of the presence of petechiae on a victim can help police investigators prove the case. Petechiae resulting from strangulation can be relatively tiny and light in color to very bright and pronounced. Petechiae may be seen on the face, in the whites of the eyes or on the inside of the eyelids.
- Purpura, which is the mid-sized type of hematoma (3mm-1 cm)
- Ecchymoses, which is the large type of hematoma (>1 cm)
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