Bringing hematohidrosis out of the shadows

by Chris Miquel November 04, 2017

Bringing hematohidrosis out of the shadows



There are commonly occurring diseases in this world and rare ones too. Among the latter category is hematohidrosis, a condition so rare that doctors find it difficult to diagnose. Only recently, in Florence, Italy, a lady has been diagnosed with hematohidrosis, a rare condition in which the patient sweats blood from her hands. She told the doctors of the Italian hospital that she had been sweating blood from her palms and face for the past three years for no apparent reason.

A fallout of this condition made her socially isolated as she was ashamed by her ailment. She suffered depression, anxiety and panic disorder. The bleeding wasn't due to any specific reason, in fact it would sometimes happen while she slept or when she was physically active. When she was stressed, however, it would only increase and last up to about five minutes. Though doctors treated her for her depression with paroxetine and clonazepam, her face continued to spew blood. Finally, she was treated with propranolol. Though this reduced the intensity of the problem, it did not go away completely. To this day, the cause of this problem is not known.

Understanding hematohidrosis:

Hematohidrosis or blood sweat is a rare medical condition in which one sweats blood. There are at least 24 known cases of hematohidrosis in world medical literature since 2000. These cases came from all the continents of the world except North America and ranged from seven months of age to 34 years.

Signs and symptoms:

Hematohidrosis is identified by blood oozing from various skin surfaces, such as the forehead, nails and umbilicus. It also causes nosebleeds, tears of blood and problems with menstruation. Severe headaches and stomach-aches bring on this condition. At times, the fluid is a pale red while at other times, it is bright red. Though the blood loss is minimal, hematohidrosis leads to the skin becoming very tender.

Causes:

In this condition, the blood vessels that feed the sweat glands burst, causing blood to seep out. It happens when one is very physically or emotionally stressed. Due to acute tension, fear, stress and anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system brings about the stress-fight or flight reaction to a degree that causes the blood vessels to haemorrhage. These blood vessels empty into the sweat glands.

Another cause of hematohidrosis is vicarious menstruation. This refers to blood leaving the body from a body part other than the uterus, as is normal during menstruation.

Yet another reason is psychogenic purpura. In this condition, patients experience spontaneous bleeding and bruising without any apparent reason.

Treating hematohidrosis:

Due to extreme blood and sweat loss and severe anxiety, patients are sometimes mildly or moderately dehydrated. Though this is a rare case, yet patients have been successfully treated with beta-blockers like propranolol, which reduces the frequency of blood oozing. If beta blockers are helpful in reducing blood sweat, it means that this condition is due to stress and anxiety. Other ways of treating it include using atropine sulfate transdermal patches and undergoing psychiatric counselling to mitigate stress.

 




Chris Miquel
Chris Miquel

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