15 Potential Causes of Red Spots on your Skin

Red skin spots are a common symptom of many different skin conditions. Due to their many causes, how serious they are will depend on what’s causing them. What’s causing your spots will also affect how you treat them, so it’s important to get a diagnosis from a healthcare professional to get the right treatment and advice. If you have red spots on your skin and you need help finding out what’s causing them or what to do, you can try our skin diagnosis service. Read on to learn more about red skin spots, what conditions can cause them, and what to do if you have them.

What Are Red Skin Spots?

Red skin spots are a way to describe a common symptom of many skin conditions. Due to this, they can also differ in appearance depending on what’s causing them. They may also be accompanied by different symptoms depending on their cause.. It can often be difficult to tell exactly what the underlying cause of red skin spots is. However, there are some common conditions which do cause them.

Red skin spots may also appear differently on darker skin tones. Unfortunately, skin research has not always been inclusive of non-white skin tones.

If you’re unsure of something new on your skin or it’s causing you discomfort, you should speak to a dermatologist or a doctor to help identify your skin condition.

15 Common Causes of Red Spots

To help you identify possible causes of red spots on your skin, here is a list of 15 common causes.

1. Acne

Acne is characterised by various sizes of whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, pustules, nodules, and cysts. It can cause red spots, and is found on your face, back, or chest. It is caused by excess skin oil trapping dirt and bacteria. Treatments include antibiotics and topical solutions applied directly to the skin.

2. Allergic reaction

Allergic reactions can cause different types of red spots depending on the cause. Examples include contact dermatitis and drug rash. If you have a severe allergic reaction which causes difficulty breathing or swelling of your mouth, lips, or throat, call 999 immediately.

3. Atopic Dermatitis

Also known as eczema, atopic dermatitis causes red, itchy, scaly rashes in places where your skin folds such as elbows, neck, wrists, back of your knees and ears. It can be painful and irritating. Atopic dermatitis is caused by the skin being unable to retain moisture. It can be treated by creams applied directly to the skin, antihistamines, or oral steroids in more serious cases.

4. Cherry Angiomas

Cherry angiomas appear as a small skin growth, which can be raised or flat and is usually a vivid red or purple. They are made up of blood vessels, can be pinhead sized or up to a few millimetres in diameter, and are common in those over 30 years old. They are harmless but can be surgically removed. After removal, they can still reappear.

5. Contact Dermatitis

Red spots on your skin could be contact dermatitis. You can get it when your skin is irritated or has an allergic reaction to something you come into contact with, such as poison ivy. It often causes an itchy red rash which can be bumpy. It will often clear up after a few weeks if you avoid the trigger that is causing it, but can also be treated with over-the-counter creams and oral antihistamines to relieve symptoms.

If you have symptoms of contact dermatitis and difficulty breathing, or swelling of your mouth, throat, or lips, call 999 immediately.

6. Drug Rash

Drug rashes can vary greatly in severity, location, and appearance. They can cause red spots, as well as scaling, itchiness, peeling, and purple patches. They are caused by an allergic reaction. It can happen with any type of medication. Reactions can sometimes require immediate medical attention. If you develop a rash soon after taking a new medication, talk to your doctor or call 111. If symptoms are severe, call 999.

7. Heat Rash

Heat rash causes red spots on the skin, usually in areas of the skin where sweat can build up, such as armpits. It is caused by your sweat glands being blocked. It can be treated by cooling the skin with cold water, cold compresses, and wearing loose clothes.

8. Hives

Hives are a rash which can look like many red spots on the skin. On darker skin tones, hives can appear a different colour. They can cause itchiness, stinging, and burning. Hives are often caused by a reaction to a trigger such as food, plants, animals, chemicals, and certain materials. Your body responds by increasing levels of histamine and other chemicals in your skin, causing symptoms. Hives often get better after anything from a few minutes to a few days. Antihistamine tablets can help to speed this process up.

9. Keratosis Pilaris

Also known as ‘chicken skin’, keratosis pilaris causes small bumps on your skin which can look like tiny red spots. They often occur on dry skin and feel rough. They are caused by keratin being retained in the openings of your hair follicles, reduced exfoliation, and dry skin. Moisturising your skin or using topical exfoliants can help to relieve symptoms.

10. Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is an autoimmune disease which can cause red spots on your arms/ legs/ body or genitals. Lichen planus can also effect the inside of your mouth, scalp, nails, throat, and in your digestive tract. It often looks like a flat, red or purple bumpy rash, and can be itchy. The cause is not known, though it is thought to be partially related to genetics. It can be treated with steroid creams, retinoids, light exposure therapy, or oral antihistamines.

11. Petechiae

Petechiae, also known as blood spots, can cause red spots on the skin which appear like a rash. They are small, like dots, and occur when blood leaks from vessels underneath your skin’s surface. They often appear suddenly on your limbs, buttocks, or stomach. They can be caused by either an infection, trauma, bleeding disorder, or allergy. A doctor can examine the spots to try and identify the cause and prescribe appropriate treatment. In some cases, it does not require treatment but if you have petechiae you should always contact a doctor promptly as some causes require urgent treatment. If you have a petechial rash and a fever, headache, vomiting, drowsiness, sensitivity to light, neck stiffness and or unexpected bleeding contact a doctor immediately.

12. Pityriasis Rosea

Pityriasis rosea can cause red spots on the skin of children, adolescents, and young adults. It often begins with one large red spot followed by smaller, ring shaped spots which can be scaly and itchy. The cause is unknown, but may be linked to a viral infection. It can happen alongside a headache, sore throat, and fever. It is not a serious condition and can disappear on its own in 6 to 8 weeks. However, treatments like steroid creams or antihistamines can be provided to relieve symptoms.

13. Ringworm

Ringworm is a common fungal skin infection which can cause red spots. The spots are blotchy, raised, and circular in appearance and can begin to flake and peel. It is highly contagious and is spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or skin, and even by pets. It is commonly found on arms and legs. It can be treated with antifungal creams, or in more serious or untreated cases with antifungal tablets.

14. Rosacea

Rosacea is a condition similar to acne vulgaris, but typically causes more intense redness alongside red spots and only affects the nose, cheeks, and forehead. It can cause stinging, burning, and very sensitive skin. It is believed to be linked to genetics, but symptoms are usually flared up by triggers such as alcohol, hot drinks, caffeine, cheese, exercise, and spicy food. It can be treated with prescription creams and gels, antibiotics, and light-based therapies.

15. Swimmer’s Itch

Also known as cercarial dermatitis, swimmer’s itch can cause red spots on the skin. It occurs when you come into contact with water that is contaminated with a parasite called schistosomes. It causes an itchy, bumpy red rash, pimples, or blisters. It can clear up on its own in around 7 days, but if it does not, emollients, steroid creams and antihistamine tablets. can also be used.

Should I See a Doctor About Red Spots?

Red spots do not generally require a doctor. However, if your spots are persistent and not responding to home treatment, or getting worse, you should talk to your GP or a dermatologist.

If you experience any of the following alongside red spots, contact your GP or call 111:

  • joint pain
  • fatigue

If you experience any of these symptoms alongside red spots, seek immediate medical attention:

  • fever, confusion, vomiting, neck stiffness or dizziness
  • breathing difficulties
  • a lot of pus oozing from a rash
  • unexpected bleeding

How Do I Know What’s Causing My Red Spots?

It can be tough to identify the cause of red spots. For this reason, it is always best to get a professional diagnosis so you can be sure you are getting the correct treatment. This can be provided by a doctor. Superdrug has an Online Skin Diagnosis service which can help you quickly find the cause of your red spots and get the treatment you require.


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  • 13 Causes of Red Spots on Skin VeryWellHealth [accessed 5th October 2022]
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  • Hives NHS [accessed 5th October 2022]
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  • Rosacea NHS [accessed 5th October 2022]
  • Atopic eczema NHS [accessed 5th October 2022]
  • Patient Reviews