You know there’s a problem if you start coughing up blood—but how to react when you start sweating blood?
Per the CBC, a 21-year-old Italian woman got to a hospital ASAP, and now doctors are puzzling over her “most unusual” case of bleeding from her face and palms, a condition she’d apparently suffered from for three years.
While the case study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal doesn’t reveal much detail about the woman herself, it notes she was diagnosed with hematohidrosis, a rare condition in which blood is excreted or sweated out through pores or unbroken skin (ie, it’s not coming out through a cut or other injury).
The patient tends to break out in the bloody sweating when she’s either asleep or doing something physical, and the condition seems to get worse when she’s stressed.
An episode can last up to five minutes. Per CTV News, doctors say the woman’s condition is embarrassing enough to her that she became “socially isolated” and showed depression and panic disorder symptoms.
Although it’s still not known what spurs such bleeding, different theories have emerged, including blood coagulation disorders or an overactive nervous system that reacts when a patient is under stress.
A Toronto hematologist thinks this particular patient has “a very bizarre anatomical defect on a microscopic level” that’s causing her bleeding, perhaps in her sweat ducts.
A medical historian tells the CBC she was at first wary anyone could actually sweat blood, but after research reaching back to Aristotle’s time (and her find of nearly 20 cases since 2000), she now believes the condition exists.
The patient has since been administered a heart and blood pressure med that has cut down—though not eliminated—her bleeding. (Here’s what life is like when you’re allergic to your own sweat.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: Woman Can’t Stop Sweating Blood From Face, Hands
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