Doctors have been left perplexed by a 21-year-old Italian woman with no gashes or skin lesions with years of sweating blood from her face and the palms of her hands. The bleeding would often start while she was sleeping or during physical activity and could last anywhere from one to five minutes.
While the intensity of the bleeding seemed to increase with stress, she couldn’t single out any obvious trigger. Her condition has been documented by two physicians from the University of Florence in Italy in the latest issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
The condition, according MSN, began about three years ago before she started seeking medical help. The situation had taken a toll on her mental health, wrote doctors Roberto Maglie and Marzia Caproni. “Our patient had become socially isolated owing to embarrassment over the bleeding and she reported symptoms consistent with major depressive disorder and panic disorder.”
They prescribed her anti-anxiety medications, but the bleeding continued. After a round of tests and observations ruled out the possibility that she was faking the condition, she was diagnosed with hematohidrosis, a rarely reported condition in which patients spontaneously sweat blood through unbroken skin.
Doctors treated her with propranolol, a heart and blood pressure medication, which reduced the bleeding but failed to eliminate it completely. Jacalyn Duffin, the Canadian medical historian and haematologist who wrote a commentary that accompanies the report, said she was initially sceptical.
“My first thought was, is this real? Could it be fake?” The mystery deepened after she canvassed her senior haematology colleagues and found that not one of them had ever come across such a case. Duffin then delved into the medical literature, managing to turn up more than two dozen similar cases reported around the world in the past 15 years or so.
In many of these, researchers had carefully documented the tests they had carried out to eliminate the possibility of other bleeding disorders and the evidence they had found to suggest the presence of blood in the sweat ducts. “I came to the conclusion that it’s plausible and that it’s possible,” said Duffin.
The majority of these cases involved young women or children. Many of the reports documented that the bleeding was preceded by emotional trauma, such as witnessing violence at home or at school. In all of the patients, the condition was transient, lasting anywhere from a month to four years.