A woman amazed her doctors after showing them her blood condition, something they had heard about before but never had the opportunity to study. According to the research published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, a 21-year-old woman from Italy usually bleeds from her face and palms due to her depression.
At any moment, the woman starts bleeding in a very particular way. Her blood doesn’t come from any wound or scratch. Instead, it just emerges like it was sweat.
Suddenly —but especially on moments where she experiences high levels of anxiety and stress— the blood of the young lady, whose identity remained anonymous, comes out from her healthy skin. After it starts, it keeps oozing from one to five minutes.
For doctors, it was very uncommon to find a person able to bleed so easily, especially after they tested her blood and her skin and found that she didn’t present any abnormality.
This condition made the woman not to want to show herself in public for around three years. She fears that she might start bleeding in front of people without being able to explain what’s happening to her.
After more investigation, doctors found that the woman suffered from an incredibly rare condition: hematohidrosis, or “blood sweating.” As the name explains itself, it makes a person bleed like it was sweat, but without having any wounding or broken skin. According to the National Institutes of Health Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, these people commonly sweat blood through their faces, ears, noses, and eyes. In fact, there have been cases of people crying tears of blood.
She was treated then with antidepressant medications and propranolol —which is a beta-blocker, regularly used to control blood pressure and heart rate. This made her remarkably reduce the symptoms of her condition but didn’t cure her at all.
Mental illnesses linked to women who sweat blood
Despite the fact that this is an extremely rare condition, it’s not new. Once in the bible, it’s mentioned that Jesus sweated blood. And according to medical historian and hematologist Jacalyn Duffin, other cited cases date back to the third century B.C.
“Ironically, for an increasingly secular world, the long-standing association of hematohidrosis with religious mystery may make its existence harder to accept,” Duffing wrote. “It seems that humans do sweat blood, albeit far less often literally than metaphorically.”
Unfortunately, previous research suggests that women are the most who suffer from this condition, and sometimes doctors associate it to her periods. They have also hypothesized that hematohidrosis is linked to hysteria or other mental illnesses in women. On the study, the authors wrote that this report from Italy is “typical: a young woman with debilitating psychic distress.”
However, there are still other doctors who do not know about the existence of “blood sweating,” and none of them knows exactly why it happens. There are others who do not valid any diagnosis related to hematohidrosis. In fact, even the authors of the article wrote that “there is no single explanation for the source of bleeding.”
Doctors can’t do anything yet but hypothesize. For them, the blood passes through sweat glands because of “abnormal constrictions and expansions” of nearby blood vessels. But everything is still unsure.