Updated: Nov 12
The term "palatal petechiae" might not be as familiar as cavities or gum disease. In fact, if you got here after searching palatal petechiae, I must congratulate you because you are one of the few people in the world who are even aware of this condition.
However, understanding palatal petechiae is essential for those who experience it or medical professionals who treat it. This article provides an in-depth look at palatal petechiae, its causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.
What is Palatal Petechiae?
Palatal petechiae refer to pinpoint, round, red, or purple spots found on the soft palate (the part of the roof of your mouth located towards the back). These spots arise from small amounts of bleeding beneath the oral mucosa (the soft, moist tissue lining the inside of your mouth). Unlike other oral conditions, palatal petechiae are non-blanching, which means they won't disappear when you press on them.
Causes of Palatal Petechiae
Several factors can lead to the appearance of palatal petechiae:
Infections: The most common cause is a result of a streptococcal pharyngitis infection, often known as strep throat. Some viral infections like dengue, COVID-19 and kissing disease (commonly know as 'mono') can also cause palatal petechiae.
Trauma: Actions such as vigorous coughing, vomiting, or even intense bouts of crying (Crying really does impact the skin in so many ways!) can cause capillaries to rupture, leading to petechiae.
Hematological Disorders: Conditions like thrombocytopenia or clotting disorders can lead to bleeding under the skin, causing petechiae.
Other Underlying Disorders: Vitamin K deficiency and liver disorders including portal hypertension and chronic liver disease are also responsible for reduction in platelet count and developmental of palatal petechiae.
Medications: Some drugs, especially anticoagulants (blood thinners), can increase the risk of bleeding and result in petechiae.
Herbal agents: Some herbal medicines, like ginkgo biloba, garlic, ginger, and even green tea may also have anticoagulant effects and could contribute to thrombocytopenia when taken in large quantities or in combination with blood-thinning medications.
Diagnosing Palatal Petechiae
Diagnosis begins with a thorough oral examination. A healthcare professional will consider the patient's medical history, recent activities, and any associated symptoms. In some cases, blood tests (like complete blood count, platelet count, bleeding time, clotting time and prothrombin time) may be ordered to rule out underlying blood disorders or to confirm streptococcal infection.
The treatment for palatal petechiae largely depends on its cause:
Infections: If strep throat is the culprit, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed. For viral infections, antivirals and supportive care are adviced.
Trauma-Related: If due to trauma, the petechiae will typically heal on their own within a few days.
Underlying Disorders: If caused by a blood disorder, or any other underlying cause, a consultation with a hematologist or physician might be necessary.
Medication-Induced: Consulting with a prescribing doctor about alternative treatments or adjusting the dose may be beneficial for medication-related petechiae.
How Long Does Palatal Petechiae Last?
The duration of palatal petechiae can vary based on its underlying cause:
Infection-Related: When associated with infections, the petechiae often begin to fade within a few days after starting appropriate antibiotic or antiviral treatment. Complete resolution usually occurs within 7-10 days.
Trauma-Related: If the petechiae have appeared due to trauma, such as a bout of severe coughing or vomiting, they typically start to fade within 3-5 days as the body heals and can take up to a week or slightly more to disappear completely.
Underlying Medical Conditions: The duration can be more variable for those caused by hematological disorders or other medical conditions. Proper treatment of the underlying disease often leads to the resolution of the petechiae, but this can take time, ranging from a week to even months, depending on the severity and nature of the disorder.
Medication-Induced: The petechiae might persist as long as the medication is continued. Adjusting the dose or switching to a different medication, with a doctor's guidance, can lead to resolution.
Having said all of the above, you must consult a doctor to establish the cause and treatment.
When to Seek Medical Advice
While palatal petechiae are not typically a cause for alarm, if they persist, multiply, or are accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, fatigue, or unexplained bruising, consulting with a healthcare professional is paramount. Early detection and treatment are vital to address underlying health conditions.
Palatal petechiae, while not as commonly discussed as other oral conditions, play a crucial role in understanding overall health. Very few patients seek a dermatologist's consultation in cases of oral mucosal trouble.
As a dermatologist, most often, I see patients with petechiae on other parts of their bodies. Talking about petechiae on other parts of bodies, I have an article that teaches you to distinguish between petechiae and cherry angiomas.