One woman, living in Italy, has been sweating blood on and off for about three years. It’s a condition few doctors have seen, and some have questioned whether sweating blood is even possible. A recent case study published in Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) illuminates a rare condition known as hematohidrosis. The condition causes blood to spontaneously ooze out of the face and palms without any cuts or scrapes.
According to the report, the 21-year-old woman told doctors from the University of Florence she’s been experiencing this bleeding for three years. The bleeding has no clear apparent trigger and happens when the woman exercises, stresses, and sleeps. The episode lasts for one- to five-minutes.
According to the NIH’s Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, hematohidrosis can also cause “crying bloody tears, bleeding from the nose, bleeding from the ears, or oozing blood from other skin surfaces.” It most commonly occurs on the face.
There are very few cases reported, but an article published in CMAJ said that a little over half of the 28 cases reported since 2004 were accompanied by “severe psychological stress, either with mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, or in the post-traumatic setting.”
The unnamed woman in the most recent case study showed symptoms of both major depressive disorder and panic disorder and received treatment for both. She was prescribed a drug for high blood pressure that could potentially lessen the bleeding. For three years, the woman has been isolating herself to avoid being seen during an outbreak.
Two treatises by Aristotle from the third century B.C. reference sweat that either looked like, or actually was, blood. This suggests that the condition has occurred for a number of years and that doctors just weren’t able to diagnose the condition.