What does it mean if you bruise easily?

What does it mean if you bruise easily?

You noticed another one – the familiar reddish-purple discoloration of your skin that wasn’t there a day ago indicating a bruise.  The funny thing is you don’t have any recollection of bumping into anything.  But like the other occasional bruises you have noticed you are beginning to wonder why I am bruising much more frequently and is it a cause for concern?

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There can be several reasons why a person is seeing more bruising without a good explanation for why they appeared.  The good news is most bruises are harmless and will eventually go away on their own without any treatment.  By far the most common reason for easy bruising is simply getting older. 

Why do older people bruise more easily?

A normal part of getting older is bruising more easily.  As you age, your capillaries weaken, becoming more prone to rupture.  Your skin will also naturally become thinner and will lose some of the fat that would have otherwise protected your blood vessels from any impact.

That’s why if you bump into something or have an impact from a blow to the skin, the capillaries are broken by the impact.  Blood leaks out of the vessels and initially the bruise will appear as a black-and-blue mark and over the course of several days, your body reabsorbs the blood and the bruise disappears.

Some of the more common spots on your body that are prone to age-related bruising are the arms, legs, feet, and hands.  Women also tend to bruise more easily than men most likely due to having thinner skin and less of a protective fatty layer helping cushion their blood vessels from injury.

Can certain medications be a cause of bruising?

There are some medications that can be a contributor to easy bruising.  These include aspirin, anticoagulant medications and anti-platelet agents.  These medications can reduce the ability of your blood to clot.  Even antibiotics can be a culprit and have been associated with clotting problems. 

Another type of medication that can thin out your skin leading to bruising more easily are topical and systemic corticosteroids that are used to treat various skin conditions such as allergies, asthma, and eczema.  Dietary supplements like ginkgo can lead to an increased risk of bruising due to a blood-thinning effect.

What are signs if bruising is a more serious problem?

While it may be normal to bruise more as you get older, there are cases where it may signal an underlying health problem.  Signs of bruising that might indicate a more serious issue and that should be looked at by your doctor would include the following:

·      If the bruising is more frequent, severe, or worrisome for any reason

·      If the bruising is occurring on your trunk, face, or back for no known reason

·      If you have a history of significant bleeding such as during a surgical procedure

·      If you start a new medication and you suddenly begin bruising much more easily

·      If you have a family history of easy bruising or bleeding

How to treat a bruise

There really is not much to do for a bruise once they have formed.  Within time, usually a matter of several days or a couple of weeks, most bruises eventually disappear.  However, to try to speed up healing, here are a few home remedies to try:

·      Apply ice as soon as possible.  Use a flexible gel-filled icepack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel.  Whatever you use, take it off after 10 minutes and wait for 20 minutes to reapply it again.

·      To reduce blood flow to the bruise and to minimize discoloration, elevate the bruised area above your heart level.  If you bruised your leg, settle into a sofa or armchair with your leg propped up on a pillow – if it’s your arm try to keep it propped up above heart level whenever you are sitting

·      Try wrapping an elastic bandage around the bruised area as soon as you can as it may help the bruise to not be quite so severe.