Dermatologists at the University of Florence, Italy, on Monday, reported a rare case of a 21-year-old woman with a bleeding face in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). The Italian woman, whose identity has been withheld, was diagnosed with a rare condition that made her sweat blood from her face and palms.

After struggling with her abnormal condition and living in isolation for about three years, the woman finally checked into a hospital complaining of strange symptoms. The doctors at the hospital offered her a treatment, however, the bleeding continued. Eventually, after a lot more tests and diagnosis, the doctors reached a conclusion — the woman was suffering from hematohidrosis or “blood sweat” — a condition which makes an individual sweat blood from his or her face.

The CMAJ describes hematohidrosis as “an uncommon disease characterized by spontaneous discharge of ‘blood sweat’ through intact skin. Various causes have been proposed, including systemic diseases, such as vicarious menses and coagulopathies (albeit historically reported in malaria, scurvy, and epilepsy), exertion and psychogenic disorders in which bleeding might be the result of exacerbated sympathetic nervous system activation.”

According to the journal, the woman also complained of intense bleeding when she was extremely stressed or depressed. The bleeding lasted from one to five minutes. The case study also noted that “there was no obvious trigger for the bleeding, which could occur while she was asleep and during times of physical activity.”

Here are some symptoms to watch out for, courtesy Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Centre (GARD):

  • Bleeding from the face
  • Crying bloody tears
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Bleeding from the ears
  • Oozing blood from other parts of the body.

Although the exact cause of the condition is unknown, GARD states the bleeding may be due to the rupture of very small blood vessels of the skin known as dermal capillaries.

Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, a retired hematologist and a professor at the Queen's University in Ontario, said that she believes the case of the 21-year-old sweating blood from her face was real. Although she did not treat the patient, she mentioned about the history of hematohidrosis in an editorial published in the CMAJ on Monday.

“Reading lots of cases all around the world. The more research I did historically, the more I realized these people didn't know each other ... and so they couldn't be inspired by each other,” Duffin was quoted as saying in a CNN report.

According to Duffin, the most common sites for bleeding were scalp, forehead, eyes, and ears. “Some of them have had it on their trunk, some on their limbs — it appears it can be anywhere,” she said.

Duffin also said the condition was not life-threatening. "Although it's horrible to look at and horrible to suffer, it seems not to be associated with negative [health] outcomes,” she said.