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Woman Hospitalized After She Begins Sweating Blood

[WARNING: This article contains images which some could find disturbing.]

Sweating is a totally normal bodily function. We have to sweat. It maintains our body temperature by cooling us down when we're nervous, warm, or stressed.

But you know what's not normal? Sweating blood.

A 21-year-old woman in Italy was admitted to the hospital after she began sweating blood from her face and hands. Doctors were stumped, as she had no obvious wounds on her body. According to the doctors, the patient had suffered from this type of bleeding for over three years, and there was no indication as to what caused it. It could happen when she was sleeping or when she was exercising. When the woman was stressed, the bleeding was more intense. The episodes could last up to five minutes.

Dr. Roberto Maglie, a dermatologist at the University of Florence and co-author of the article which appeared in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, told CBC News in an email that he could not discuss any details about the patient due to confidentiality.

Blood work was conducted and tests were run, but all the results were normal. Doctors also ruled out the possibility of the patient faking it. She was really sweating blood, and she really needed help.

The patient was diagnosed with hematohidrosis, a rare disease that causes someone to sweat blood through unbroken skin or pores. It can also cause you to sweat blood where there aren't any sweat glands.

The article reported the patient had become depressed and isolated due to the condition, which some of the doctors indicate could be a result of a psychogenetic disease. This is when an extreme emotional response causes your body to form a physical illness.

However, despite the patient's doctors confirming the hematohidrosis diagnosis, a hematologist in Toronto says she's still not certain.

"I can say with clarity that I've never seen a case like this — ever," said Dr. Michelle Sholzberg, co-director of the Hemophilia Comprehensive Care program at St. Michael's Hospital. "And I can say that I've seen some of the worst bleeding disorders, and I've never seen them sweat blood."

Dr. Sholzberg doesn't think it's a bleeding disorder at all.

"I think this person has a very bizarre anatomical defect on a microscopic level that is resulting in this very unusual symptom," she said.

Medical historian, Jacalyn Duffin, says though the disorder is rare, it's absolutely a real thing.

"After all the research that I've done, I am convinced of the plausibility and the possibility that it exists," she said. "But case reports start appearing in the 16th century, and quite distinct from anything to do with the crucifixion, or Christianity", she says. "There are mentions of the phenomenon as far back as Aristotle ... prior to the time of Jesus."

Jacalyn DuffinCBC

"A significant proportion of all the actual cases I could find have emerged in recent decades," Duffin says. "The very fact that there are sporadic references to the phenomenon through time, scattered in many different places, tends to suggest to me that it must occur."

The disease is not fatal, but it's certainly terrifying for patients. The 21-year-old Italian woman was given propranolol, a heart and blood pressure medication. It has reduced the severity of the bleeding, but has not totally stopped it.