An unusual and ghoulish case study was released on October 23, just in time for Halloween. It told the horrifying story of a 21-year-old woman who entered a medical ward with the complaint that she’d been bleeding from her face and palms without cuts or lesions for years; blood just seeped from her hands and brow.
The leeching of internal fluid habitually occurred while she was sleeping or exercising, but could escalate without warning during times of stress. As a result of her traumatic experience, she had retreated into social isolation.
There was no history of psychosis, and doctors could find little reason for admitting her to a mental health ward. (The blood stains on those walls would undoubtedly be horrific.) Instead, doctors treated her for major depressive disorder and panic disorder. Both treatments proved ineffective. The condition persisted, leaving bloodstains and confusion.
Eventually, the doctors decided on a controversial diagnosis: hematohidrosis.
“Hematohidrosis is an uncommon disease characterized by spontaneous discharge of ‘blood sweat’ through intact skin,” explained the case study analysis.
Blood sweating is still a blurry concept to medical professionals — it has historically been reported in patients with malaria, scurvy, and epilepsy, but is much less common in healthy individuals. Extreme exertion has also been a historic cause — bringing new meaning to the phrase “blood, sweat, and tears.” Incidences of people crying tears of blood have also been reported.
According to Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, who wrote an accompanying article with the case study release, reports of humans who sweat blood have been going on since long before ancient civilization.
“Regarding … the clinical history of bloody sweat,” Duffin writes, “medical writers often trace it to the story of Christ’s suffering as told in the Bible by the physician evangelist (Luke 22:44). But hematohidrosis appeared in the scientific literature long before. As early as the third century B.C., two treatises by Aristotle contained passages about sweat that either looked like, or really was, blood.”
This has been happening to humans for thousands of years. Duffin proposes that it’s just something that can happen to humans without any real medical cause or consequence. “It seems that humans do sweat blood,” she insists.
The woman in this case study, for example, will likely sweat blood for the entirety of her life.
We hope she learns to live with it — if anything, it could be an effortless way for her to give trick-or-treaters a fright this Halloween.