What Deficiency Causes Petechiae?

Medically Reviewed on 6/29/2022
What Deficiency Causes Petechiae
Petechiae occurs when blood vessels called capillaries break open

Vitamin C and K deficiencies can lead to petechiae, which occurs when blood vessels called capillaries break open. Learn about causes of petechiae and when to see a doctor about your symptoms.

How does vitamin C deficiency cause petechiae?

Vitamin C deficiency, also called scurvy, can make the capillaries fragile. This is because vitamin C plays a crucial role in the formation of the protein called collagen that forms the walls of the blood vessels including arteries, veins, and capillaries. 

When collagen formation is compromised, the capillaries become weak and can rupture with minimal trauma, causing blood leakage. This can cause tiny pinpoint hemorrhages called petechiae, larger spots called purpura, even bigger bruises called ecchymosis, and bleeding gums.

How does vitamin K deficiency cause petechiae?

Vitamin K deficiency can also lead to petechiae. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin required to produce clotting factors and certain proteins that help control bleeding. 

In people with vitamin K deficiency, blood clotting is delayed, which can lead to petechiae, purpura, or frank bleeding. Bleeding can be seen in the nose, stools, and vomitus.

What do petechiae look like?

Petechiae are tiny, circular, pinpoint, flat spots under the skin. They may appear red, brown, or purple. Petechiae cannot be blanched, which means that they will not fade away even temporarily when pressure is applied to the skin. 

Apart from the skin, petechiae can form on relatively concealed areas, such as under the eyelids or inside the mouth.

What are other causes of petechiae?

Petechiae can occur in people of any age; however, they are more common in children and older adults. Besides nutritional deficiencies, petechiae can be caused by various other factors, such as:


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When to contact a doctor about petechiae

Localized petechiae is usually not a cause for concern and may go away on its own within a few days. If, however, you are on certain medications and develop petechiae, talk to your doctor. 

You should also seek medical treatment if your petechiae:

  • Keep increasing in number
  • Enlarge to form bigger bruises
  • Are accompanied by: 
    • Fever
    • Bleeding from any site
    • Heaviness in the abdomen
    • Neck or axillary swellings

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Medically Reviewed on 6/29/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Seifer CM, Glaser A, Gesiotto Q, Waknin R, Oller KL. Petechiae, Purpura, and a Pandemic: A Recipe for Scurvy. Cureus. 2020;12(10):e10960. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7667612/

Drugs.com. Petechiae. https://www.drugs.com/mcs/petechiae

McGrath A, Barrett MJ. Petechiae. [Updated 2021 Sep 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482331/