DermNet NZ

Facts about the skin from DermNet New Zealand Trust. Topic index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Capillaritis is the name given to a harmless skin condition in which there are reddish-brown patches caused by leaky capillaries. It is also known as pigmented purpura.

The capillaries are small blood vessels near to the skin surface. For unknown reasons they sometimes become inflamed, although a true vasculitis is not seen on skin biopsy. Blood cells may pass through small gaps that arise between the cells, which make up the capillary walls. The result is tiny red dots appear on the skin, described as cayenne pepper spots. They group together to form a flat red patch, which becomes brown and then slowly fades away over weeks to months.

Schamberg purpura
Close-up of lower back
Lichen aureus

More images of capillaritis ...

What is the cause of capillaritis?

The cause of capillaritis is usually unknown. Occasionally it arises as a reaction to a medication; many different drugs have been occasionally associated with capillaritis. In others a food additive or a viral infection may be responsible. Capillaritis may also develop after exercise.

Clinical features of capillaritis

There are several descriptive types of capillaritis. They are often named after the dermatologist who first described them

Treatment of capillaritis

There is no known cure for most cases of capillaritis. It can disappear within a few weeks, recur from time to time, or frequently persist for years.

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