In 2011, National Geographic released a documentary called “The Girl Who Cries Blood” which covered the condition of an Indian teenager named Twinkle Dwivedi. It was famed that Twinkle spontaneously bleeds from her hands, feet, head, and eyes several times a day.
Dr. George Buchanan, Pediatric Hematologist, UT Southwestern and Children’s Medical Centre was invited to be the lead investigator in this case which had baffled medical practitioners in India. After several days of inconclusive tests and observations, Dr. Buchanan declared that he had never heard of such a case, nor were such cases of individuals crying blood tears ever discovered in recorded history. He also declared that since Twinkle’s episodes were only witnessed by her mother and were prevalent during her menstrual period, this entire case was probably a hoax and that while his heart believed that this case was truly unique, his brain told him that this was a classic case of “Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy”.
Munchausen Syndrome is a psychological disorder where an otherwise healthy individual is convinced that they are suffering from a chronic and severe physical ailment. This disorder is a marker of severe emotional stress. Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy in simple terms means psychological disorders caused in one person, because of the actions of another person. In this, Dr. Buchanan suggests that it was Twinkle’s mother who triggered this response in the child by exposing her to such distress. This claim has been severely contested by Twinkle’s mother, along with the claim that Twinkle’s case is a hoax.
Some news channels followed suit and tried to convince the public that maybe her case was a hoax, however, it turns out, Twinkle’s case is one of the many cases reported throughout history and current times. The condition she suffers from is a rare condition and is known as Hematohidrosis/Hematidrosis.
The Indian Journal of Dermatology defines Hematohidrosis as “an extremely rare condition where an individual may appear to sweat blood from forehead, nails, umbilicus and so on. A person can also sweat or cry tears of blood from mucus-rich organs like eyes and nose. Such a condition is triggered by emotional stress or hormonal change. It is an extremely probable condition in fertile women.”
Now that we have a name for the condition, let us examine its history.
- Hematohidrosis and Occult Haemolacria Through History:
- List of Individuals (Reported) Who Suffer from Blood Tears or Sweat Blood:
- What Causes Hematohidrosis or Haemolacria?
Hematohidrosis and Occult Haemolacria Through History:
“Khoon ke aansu rulana” and “khoon-paseene ki kamai” have been favourite sayings in the 80s Bollywood movies where the exploited hero of the movie swears to take such a revenge that his enemy cries tears of blood or talks about his earnings as being born out of his sweat and blood. In fact, crying blood tears has been a popular saying throughout, anyone who has suffered claims that they have cried tears of blood. Where did this expression emerge from? How did it even become a household name? Have there been previous cases of men and women crying tears which appear to be composed of blood or sweating blood? It is true that a person may temporarily appear to cry tears of blood if one is suffering from bacterial conjunctivitis but at this point, we are discussing the spontaneous blood sweat or blood tears, which occur in an otherwise healthy individual.
Despite Dr. Buchanan’s claim, it appears that cases of Occult Haemolacria (blood tears) and Hematidrosis (blood sweat) have been observed and recorded throughout history. We do not know if it is true or not, but it is famed that before his crucifixion Jesus Christ’s sweat looked like drops of blood , but that is conjecture and debatable. Other more recent proofs include Leonardo Da Vinci’s report of a soldier who would sweat blood before a battle. In the 16th Century, an Italian physician named Antonio Brassavola reported of a nun who cried tears of blood. In 1581, a doctor from Flanders reported the case of a teenager who he claimed was channeling her menstrual flow by bleeding from her eyes instead of the uterus.
In more recent times, researchers in 1980’s dedicated themselves to the study of such rare occurrences in 2004, a mere seven years before the NatGeo documentary a group of five doctors namely, Dr. Barrett G. Haik, Dr. James Liner, Dr. James Fleming, and Dr. Viet Ho published case studies of four girls between the ages of 6- 14 years who reported of bleeding tears of blood or blood sweat. These cases were followed up for 11 years, with no reports of further recurrence before it was published in a journal called the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and was titled “Bloody Tears of Unknown Cause”.
List of Individuals (Reported) Who Suffer from Blood Tears or Sweat Blood:
There could have been more cases of hematohidrosis that have either gone unreported or were considered a religious occurrence. In the middle ages, spontaneous bleeding or sweating blood from hands, feet, and head was termed as stigmata and was seen as an imposition from God, representing the pain Christ felt when he was crucified. A certain record speaks of 300 people suffering from stigmata most of which were women. In India on the other hand, the opinion is divided, while some may believe that bloody tears are an act of evil, others venerate such individuals and see them as messengers or hands of God. Since the condition is extremely rare, more often than not, families prefer to keep quiet about their suffering. However, here is a list of reported cases since the fabled
Twinkle Dwivedi from India was probably the first most popular case of the twenty-first century to be suffering from spontaneous blood tears along with bleeding from head, legs, and hands. While the samples collected from her were definitely blood, determined through simple tests, her case was written off as a case of Munchausen Syndrome. Other news tabloids who interviewed her conjectured that since her bleeding episodes coincided with her menstrual cycle, it would explain where she got her blood from without harming herself. This claim has since been contested by her mother, however, further research proves that hormonal changes caused during the menstrual cycle may cause spontaneous bleeding in women.
In 2009, then teenager Calvino Inman from Tennessee, USA stepped out of the bath and observed bloody tears leaking out of his eyes. This inexplicable situation led him to undergo inconclusive tests including an MRI. Since then Inman has been having unpredictable episodes of bleeding, but no explanation to his condition. Dr. Barrett G. Haik the Director of the University of Tennessee, Hamilton Eye Institute and an expert researcher of the matter claimed that this phenomenon is rare, perplexing and worrying and generally resolves itself in due course of time, without any external intervention.
Michael Spann is from Tennessee, USA and was only 22 when he had his first episode of spontaneous bleeding. He claims that he felt a severe headache, “like being hit with a sledgehammer”, before the advent of his bleeding episode. Since then, he has had unpredictable episodes of blood tears and blood from other parts, rendering him unemployable.
Gara Hopkins of USA, was just 7 years old when she started crying tears of blood. The Social Services Department declared her need of a therapeutic home and took her to an unknown location for further care. Social workers believed that she was facing emotional, physical and psychological abuse at home and her bleeding stunt was a bid for attention or result of bruises and internal bleeding, however, no charges were filed against the family. Gara bled spontaneously at the therapeutic home too but wasn’t allowed to return home or access further medical care. Her family was allowed limited visiting hours and ultimately had to opt for legal procedures to gain custody of Gara.
Delfina Cedeno, a citizen of the Dominican Republic has been bleeding spontaneously since 2009 when she was only 15 years of age. In addition to tears of blood, she also bleeds from her nails and naval and once bled continuously for over two weeks, which brought her to death’s doorstep and necessitated the need of a blood transfusion in her. Doctors later discovered that adrenalin level in her bloodstream was ten times higher than that of a normal person.
Rashida Khatoon from Patna became a holy shrine when she started crying tears of blood. She is treated as a miracle. Ms. Khatoon also claims that she does not feel any pain but suffers from severe mood swing. Doctors who study haemolacria have proposed that maybe Rashida’s symptoms are caused by hormonal changes.
Delhi based teenager Preeti Gupta started showing symptoms of bleeding from her eyes, nails, ears after being severely ill. While the Doctors are baffled, some people have also claimed that Preeti is faking her symptoms for attention. However, images and videos shared by Preeti’s family prove that she is indeed suffering from haemolacria, however, Doctors have failed to make a definitive diagnosis.
In 2017, 20 years old, Yaritza Oliva, a citizen of Chile started bleeding from her eyes spontaneously. Doctors ruled out the possibilities of conjunctivitis and other eye disease but have been unable to come up with a diagnosis.
A teenager from South Africa, Jane Mothibe started weeping tears of blood, along with bleeding from other body parts. She was rushed to the hospital where the doctors present refused to believe the evidence right in front of their eyes. They have still not arrived at a diagnosis while her church claims that she is suffering from stigmata.
Linnie Ikeda had shown strange symptoms since where she would get unexplained bruises on her skin which were so bad, some thought she was suffering from abuse. In 2017, this young adult started bleeding uncontrollably from her eyes and tongue. Linnie claims that the bleeding doesn’t hurt in itself but the lead up the bleeding is painful, where she feels pressure in her eyes, which also swell and become puffy.
This teenager from Stoke-On-Trent started coughing blood in 2013, by 2015 she started bleeding from her eyes, ears, and scalp. She was rushed to the hospital and was subsequently diagnosed with haemolacria and has been under medication (beta blockers) to induce early menopause to control hormonal changes in her body.
What Causes Hematohidrosis or Haemolacria?
Haemolacria and Hematohidrosis are such rare diseases that they are still being researched. However, there are some identified causes for these rare conditions:
- Hormonal Changes: Doctors who have observed patients suffering from haemolacria claim, that hormonal changes caused due to the menstruation cycle may lead to the development of this disease.
- Bleeding Disorders: Some Doctors also accredit bleeding disorders as causes behind the development of haemolacria.
- High Blood Pressure: Some doctors believe that haemolacria or hematohidrosis are caused by the episodes of extremely high blood pressure, which damage the blood vessels near mucus organs like eyes, ears, nose and sweat glands. When the damage to the blood vessels is high, the blood seeps out of these glands are tears or sweat.
- Adrenalin: It was discovered in Delfina Cedeno’s case that the level of adrenalin in her bloodstream was ten times higher than that of a normal person. This high adrenalin leads to high stress which can in turn rupture blood vessels.
- Anxiety or Stress: In 2010, The Indian Dermatology Online Journal published a study conducted by Dr. Stuti Mahajan and Dr. Rakesh Patel who studied a teenager complaining of daily spontaneous bleeding. The researchers observed that the frequency of bleeding increased during the school hours, which led them to conclude that the teenager was suffering from severe anxiety leading to bleeding. He has been put on anti-anxiety medicines since then and has been asked to change his lifestyle.
A look into the several research reports published by the Indian Dermatology Online Journal can give us an insight into the prevalence of such cases, Twinkle was probably the first sensationalised case, which in turn spurned research into the topic. India alone has over 10 such cases, there may be others that have gone unreported. Dr. Barret G. Naik one of the first people to have studied this disease in detail claims that this unexplained bleeding fades stops as suddenly as it appeared, meaning that the disease cures itself in the long run.
What is interesting to note is that, several ancient texts have seen this bleeding as a sign of divinity and divine power, while this view is contestable today, it leaves behind a question, is this disease a sign of evolution where the human body is breaking free from its animal past and developing into an entirely new species which has unique responses to stress and hormones?