Anemia rashes appear as itchy skin or tiny red dots under your skin called petechiae. The rashes are symptoms of iron deficiency anemia and aplastic anemia. Both types of anemia can be serious, but they are very treatable.
Anemia rash is a general term that describes itchy skin or a rash that looks like red dots that can develop in people with certain types of anemia.
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In anemia, you have a low number of red blood cells. These are the cells in your blood that carry oxygen. Without enough oxygen, people with anemia often feel tired or cold. They can also develop skin rashes.
The two types of anemia that are most commonly associated with skin rashes are:
The frequency of anemia rash varies with the conditions that cause it. For example:
But not every person with these conditions will develop anemia rash.
Symptoms of anemia rash are different depending on the underlying cause. People with iron deficiency anemia may experience itchy skin (pruritis) that can become red, bumpy and sore when scratched.
Rashes associated with aplastic anemia usually appear as tiny red or purple dots under your skin (petechiae). The dots can form large patches but aren't usually itchy or painful.
These skin changes can occur anywhere on your body.
In iron deficiency anemia, researchers aren't sure how the itching develops. One theory is that low iron levels can make skin thinner, causing more water loss. This can cause itching.
Skin changes in aplastic anemia are due to low platelets (blood cells that help with blood clotting). This condition is also known as thrombocytopenia. When your platelet levels are low, the small blood vessels under your skin can bleed, causing the telltale red dots. You may also bruise easily or experience other types of bleeding, such as nosebleeds or bleeding gums.
Your provider will perform a physical exam to evaluate your rash and symptoms. Additional tests your provider may order to identify what is causing the rash include:
Your provider will treat the rash as well as what is causing it.
To relieve itchy skin associated with iron deficiency anemia, your provider may recommend topical corticosteroids or oral antihistamines. There's no treatment for the dotted rash (petechiae), but your provider will treat the cause (aplastic anemia).
For iron deficiency anemia, treatment may include increasing your iron levels with supplements, dietary changes or a blood transfusion.
The most effective treatment for aplastic anemia is a bone marrow transplant. This procedure replaces damaged cells with healthy ones. Other treatments to manage aplastic anemia include:
You can prevent iron deficiency by eating an iron-rich diet. There's no way to prevent aplastic anemia.
Both iron deficiency and aplastic anemia are highly treatable. Once these conditions improve, so will your anemia rash.
You should call your provider if you experience any skin changes that:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Itchy skin and petechiae rashes may be a sign of other more serious conditions. Tell your provider if you develop a rash along with other symptoms of iron deficiency anemia or aplastic anemia. Your provider can help you find the cause and identify a plan for treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/02/2022.
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