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Scientists Just Discovered The Medical Explanation For Stigmata

Updated July 30, 2021 18.9k views10 items

While stigmata is typically thought of as a religious phenomenon, there are actually documented cases of people sweating blood. Blood coming through pores of the skin is not necessarily supernatural in nature. Recent studies indicate what has been traditionally referred to as stigmata may actually be a medical condition known as hematohidrosis. Potentially caused by excessive stress, this may explain historical cases of stigmata. 

The medical explanation for stigmata is still not widely studied or understood. It's a difficult condition to monitor and scientists are often hesitant to take claims seriously due to the religious and supernatural connections. Nevertheless, as more and more modern cases of stigmata are popping up, medical professionals are again taking an interest in the condition. If hematohidrosis is the cause, hopefully it can eventually be explained and cured. 

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  • Photo: Domenico di Pace Beccafumi / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Extreme Stress May Cause Some People To Sweat Blood

    Hematohidrosis is an extremely rare condition that has not been widely studied and as such its precise cause is still unknown. However, there is some evidence that acute stress may cause the condition. Cases of hematohidrosis are more frequently reported by people under intense stress, such as death row inmates or those who've experienced past trauma.

    The theory is that various blood vessels gather near the skin during times of stress. For those with severe anxiety, the vessels actually rupture. This causes blood to pass through the skin in the form of sweat.

    Keep in mind, this is just one theory. Other possible explanations for hematohidrosis include excessive exertion and complications with menstruation.

  • A Modern Case Is Renewing Interest In The Phenomenon

    In October 2017, a story broke of a woman in Florence, Italy, who had a tendency to sweat blood. She reportedly sweats from her face and hands during exercise, other physical exertion, or in her sleep. The condition seemed to get worse during times of intense stress. Doctors ended up diagnosing her with hematohidrosis and attempted to treat the condition with a beta blocker. So far, they have been unable to eliminate symptoms and the condition has caused the woman a great deal of emotional distress.

  • Reports Of Stigmata Predate Christianity

    While stigmata is associated with Christianity and considered a miracle by devout Christians, the phenomenon predates the birth of Jesus. It goes as far back as the B.C. era. Also, while conditions similar to stigmata occurred before Christianity was widely recognized, there were no reports of stigmata associated with the Christian faith for the first 1,200 years after Jesus died. Stigmata only began being linked to the birth of Christ in the 13th century after depictions of Jesus became commonplace.

  • Photo: Sano di Pietro/Metropolitan Museum of Art / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    A Famed Saint's Alleged Stigmata May Have Had A Medical Explanation

    St. Francis of Assisi was one of the more famous sufferers of stigmata. He allegedly bled in his hands and feet after experiencing a vision of Christ. However, it is believed St. Francis succumbed to malignant malaria. Malaria can cause recurrent hemorrhages on the hands and feet, a complication known as purpura, which may explain the saint’s bleeding.