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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What are purpura?

Purpura are purple or red spots on the skin or mucus membranes. Purpura happen when blood leaks from blood vessels and collects under the skin or mucus membrane.

What causes purpura?

  • Low platelet (a blood cell that stops your body from bleeding) levels
  • Platelets that do not work correctly
  • Injury to blood vessels
  • Fragile or weak blood vessels
  • An allergic reaction to a blood transfusion
  • Certain viral or bacterial infections, such as rubella or streptococcus

What increases my risk for purpura?

Any condition or medicine that causes low platelet levels can increase your risk for purpura. Your risk is also increased if you have a condition, or take medicine, that prevents platelets from working correctly.

  • Hemophilia or thrombocytopenia
  • Liver or renal disease
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Pregnancy
  • Not enough vitamin K or C
  • Cancer or cancer treatment

What are the signs and symptoms of purpura?

Purpura may happen anywhere in your body. They may be raised or flat, and different sizes. You may have other symptoms depending on what is causing your purpura. If purpura is caused by an infection, you may have a fever or pain in the infected body part. If purpura is caused by a bleeding problem, you may have bleeding in other parts of your body.

How is the cause of purpura diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Tell him about any health condition you have that causes bleeding. Also tell him what medicines or supplements you take. You may need blood tests to count your platelets or time how fast your blood clots. You may also need blood tests to check for infection or other conditions that cause purpura.

How is purpura treated?

Medicine may be needed to treat an infection. Your blood thinner, aspirin, or other medicine may need to be stopped or changed. If you have a large amount of bleeding, you may need a blood transfusion, medicines, or surgery to stop the bleeding.

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

  • Do not take NSAIDs, aspirin, or blood thinner medicine. These medicines can make purpura worse. Ask your healthcare provider how long you need to stop these medicines.
  • Protect your body from injury. Cuts or scrapes may cause bleeding that is difficult to control. Use an electric shaver. Wear gloves when you wash the dishes or garden. Be careful when you use knives or other sharp items. Always wear a seatbelt.
  • Do not play contact sports. Contact sports such as football or boxing may cause injury or bleeding that is difficult to control. Ask your healthcare provider what activities are safe for you to do.
  • Control bleeding. Apply firm, steady pressure to cuts or scrapes. If possible, elevate the area above the level of your heart. If your nose bleeds, pinch the upper part of your nose and hold a tissue at the opening. Do this until the bleeding stops.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
    • You may also have any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have bleeding that does not stop or a bruise that suddenly gets bigger.
  • You vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your arm or leg looks bigger than normal and feels warm, tender, or painful.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded, dizzy, or weak.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have bleeding from your gums, mouth, or nose.
  • You have irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding.
  • You have blood in your urine or bowel movement.
  • You see more bruises or red or purple spots on your skin.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.