Sweating Blood Can Be a Disease or a Response to Stress
Blood oozing out of the skin can have more than one cause, say scientists.
A young woman in Italy has a “rare and mysterious condition that causes her to sweat blood,” reports Live Science. The condition, called hematohidrosis, appears to be due to a blood disorder, because it occurs spontaneously without a known trigger.
The Italian woman said that there did not appear to be a single trigger to her bleeding — it could occur while she was asleep, or while she was exercising or under stress. She said that she had become socially isolated as a result of her condition, and she experienced symptoms of depression and panic disorder, the report said.
Tests showed that it was indeed blood on her face, and not “colored sweat,” which can occur in certain conditions. An analysis of her skin under a microscope showed normal skin tissue, the report said.
Reports of “sweating blood” go back to ancient times, but until 1600, no eyewitness accounts were recorded, the article says. Nevertheless, doctors examining this woman no longer doubt the reality of the condition.
But after conducting a review of recent cases of hematohidrosis — 28 cases in the last 13 years — Duffin concluded that the condition really does exist. “Credible, though scant, observations of sweating blood persist” in the medical literature, she wrote in her commentary. “This collection of well-documented observations commands respect and acceptance,” she said.
However, nobody knows what causes the condition. Some researchers have hypothesized that increased pressure in blood vessels leads to the passage of blood cells through the ducts of the sweat glands, according to GARD. Others speculate the condition may be the result of activation of the body’s “fight or flight” response, which generally occurs when people experience sudden fear or stress. This response triggers the release of certain hormones that make a person more alert. But in rare cases, it may also cause the rupture of small blood vessels, resulting in bleeding, according to Healthline.
Reports of Christ’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane come to mind. Luke recorded in his gospel (Luke 22:44), “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Being a doctor, Luke must have noted this as highly unusual. Since this was a unique incident in the life of Christ, who was vigorous and healthy through his many travels and ministry activities and healed many others, this was not a genetic abnormality. It must have been from extreme stress the Bible describes as “agony.”
No human can imagine the stress of having to bear the weight of the world’s sins on the cross (just hours away as He prayed), and knowing that it would mean the Father rejecting the Son (“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” —quoting Psalm 22:1). Knowing in advance that this would mean enduring the hell that all human sinners deserve, the physical stress at that moment is incomprehensible. No wonder it brought on an episode of sweating great drops of blood. After angels ministered to Him, Jesus stood and faced the inevitable. For “the joy that was set before him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
His followers should take the Savior’s fortitude as an example: “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted,” the next verse says. “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Yet many have, as the writer of Hebrews detailed in the end of the previous chapter, and many persecuted Christians suffer today around the world. No man’s sufferings can compare with what Christ endured. Let us be thankful that Jesus went the distance, and now reigns as our intercessor. If you are a Christ follower, your sins were nailed on the cross with Jesus (Colossians 2:13-14). He took your pain. Let Him have your life—the reasonable response (Romans 12:1-2).