What does bruising easily mean? What are some of the possible causes and treatment for the problem? How is it diagnosed? Continue reading to discover the answers to all these questions and more.
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What Does Bruising Easily Mean?
A bruise (or a contusion) typically signifies breakage of the local capillaries just beneath the skin leading to leakage of red blood cells into the surrounding tissues, usually as a result of injury to soft tissues.
Bruising easily is however not necessarily the result of injury and may be the result of weakened blood vessels due to factors such as certain medical conditions (e.g. scurvy due to deficiency of vitamin C), excessive intake of certain medications (e.g. aspirin, prednisolone, and prednisone) and the natural aging process.
It may also mean that you lack or have a deficiency of blood-clotting elements.We’ll discuss these factors in more details in the next section.
Reasons and Causes of Bruising Easily
It is common to get bruised after injury but if you suddenly notice a bruise from out of the blues every now and then or tend to get bruises from even the faintest of traumas, you may then wonder, “why do some people bruise easily?” or “what are the causes of bruising easily?”
Well, there are numerous causes of easy bruising some of which are harmless but others require medical attention: Here are some of them:
Aging: The natural aging process is marked by numerous changes in the structure of the skin. To start with, the skin loses its protective layers of fat which explains the tendency of the skin to sag as someone ages. Secondly, the production of collagen, an important structural component of the skin, also declines.
Consequently, the skin gets continuously thinner and more prone to bruising. Gary Goldenberg, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Mt. Sinai Hospital says that those aged above 60 are especially more at risk of easy bruising; it only takes a little trauma for their skin to bruise.
Certain medications:Some medications may also increase one’s tendency to bruise. Aspirin for example, work by disabling the platelets; the agent that is responsible for blood coagulation and clotting. This results in thinner blood that is loaded with less clotting cells, which leaves the skin particularly susceptible to bruising.
Topical and systemic corticosteroids that are usually used to treat conditions such as allergies, eczema and asthma also results in thinner skin which is susceptible to bruising easily.
If bruising easily after taking any of the above medications, you should seek the attention of your doctor.
Skin tone: Bruising easily could also simply be the result of having a fair, thin skin. As Dr. Goldenberg says, “Those of us with more adipose or fatty tissue won’t see a spot from the same level of trauma.”
Dietary supplements: Some dietary supplements can as well lead to thinning-out of blood, resulting in easy bruising. Fish oil and ginkgo are two common culprit in that regard.
Sun damage: We all know that a little sunshine is good for vitamin D synthesis, but a lot of exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun not only cause sunburn, but also leaves your skin thinner and susceptible to bruising easily. You cannot turn back the hand of time, but using a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 will help you prevent future damage to the skin.
Vasculitis: The term vasculitis is used to refer to various medical conditions that are marked by inflammation of blood vessels. It is associated with red bruises referred to as purpura which result from bursting of the affected blood vessels.
While it is not known exactly what causes vasculitis, it is believed to be an autoimmune disease or a consequence of long-term presence of chronic diseases such as hepatitis. Among other symptoms associated with vasculitis are cough, numbness in hands or feet, and shortness of breath. If you have any such symptoms, it is best to have your doctor check you.
Bruising Easily Vitamin Deficiency
Bruising easily may also be caused by vitamin C deficiency or scurvy. Vitamin C s essential for proper wound healing and production of collagen in the skin.
Without enough vitamin C, blood vessels are weaker and susceptible to ruptures. Some of the signs of vitamin C deficiencyare bleeding gums, fatigue, depression, nosebleeds, swollen joints, and dry skin and hair.
Bruising Easily Anemia
The term anemia refers to a condition whereby your blood has too small a number of healthy red blood cells. It can also occur if the red blood cells lack enough hemoglobin, the iron-rich component of red blood cells that carries oxygen in the body.
Another form of anemia referred to as aplastic anemia (or bone marrow failure) occurs when there is not enough red blood cells as well as white blood cells and platelets in the blood. This usually happens as a result of damage to bone marrow stem cells either due to genetic propensity to the condition or due to a certain condition or disease.
Platelets are the blood’s clotting agents.They stick together to seal any cuts and breaks in blood capillaries, veins and arteries and in so doing stop bleeding.The low count of platelets in patients with aplastic anemia make them tend to bruise easily and bleed excessively when injured.
Child Bruising Easily
“I recently noted that my child bruises easily and hardly do a few days pass without yet another new bruise on his shins and arms. Could this be a sign of vitamin deficiency? Tamara – via email
Bruising is a common phenomenon in children. Children are usually more active and tend to run into each other, rum into furniture, and fall down every now and then. Shins, chin, lower arms, and forehead are all common spots for bruises.
You should not worry about such bruises as they are most of the time not a cause for concern – not necessarily a sign of vitamin C deficiency that Tamara is worried about here.
You should only get concerned if bruising seem to occur very frequently or to stay too long (more than a few weeks), more so in unlikely areas e.g. upper arms, neck, ears, buttocks, upper legs and sides of face. The same case applies to bruising that occurs for no apparent reason – no known cases of injury – or seems out of proportion to the magnitude of injury sustained.
If you have a history of excessive bleeding and easy bruising in your family, your child’s case also warrants the attention of your doctor. An infant who doesn’t crawl should also get medical attention if s/he develops bruises and so should bruising teens whose menstrual periods lasts for more than 7 days.
All these could be signs of an underlying medical conditions such as or vitamin C deficiency.
Bruising Easily on Legs
Legs and arms are common bruising spots, but bruising easily on legs (and arms for that matter) could be an indication that the effects of aging are catching up with you or be a sign of an underlying health condition.
As we age, the skin becomes thinner, losing some of its protective fatty tissues that help to cushion blood vessels against traumas and also becomes less effective in production of collagen. This could be the starting point for bruising easily on legs (and any other part of the body for that matter).
In addition to aging process, the following conditions and factors may be to blame for easy bruises on the legs:
- Blood thinning medications e.g. aspirin, warfarin etc.
- Purpuric dermatosis – vascular condition characterized by teeny, small purple and orange bruises. According to Dr. Goldenberg, purpuric dermatosis is “…fairly common in the elderly, especially in the shin area, and can look like cayenne pepper from far away.” The condition results from leakage of blood from capillaries.
- Vitamin C deficiency – This can lead to poor formation of skin tissues. Women are at higher risk of vitamin C deficiency that men.
- Diabetes – Diabetes often leads to poor circulation which then leaves the skin (especially on the legs) more prone to bruising. In fact, easy bruising on the legs is one of the symptoms of diabetes. Others include excessive thirst, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, and lower ability of the body to fight off infections. Bruising may also be accompanied by brown or black patches in areas where the skin folds e.g. behind the knee.
- Graves’ disease – Autoimmune disease characterize by excessive thyroid gland activity, often leading to damage to capillaries; this shows as bruises
- Liver cirrhosis – A condition that results when healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue, leading to poor digestion, disrupted immune system function and ultimately excessive and easy bruising.
- Leukemia – Cancer of the bone marrow which disrupts production of red and white blood cells. It is often associated with excessive bleeding and easy and frequent bruising of the limbs, including the legs.
If the problem of easy bruising on the legs seem very frequent, then you should consider seeking medical attention to rule out any medical ailment. This is particularly so if the bruises take an especially long time to heal, are especially large and painful, or are associated with bleeding gums or nosebleeds.
Suddenly Bruising Easily Diagnosis
As we have already mentioned, easy bruising may be an indication of abnormally clotting blood – often as a result of either low levels of or poorly functioning platelets, or problems with the proteins that aid in blood clotting.
As part of the easy bruising diagnosis, your doctor will likely start by examining the current bruises and asking you about any history of excessive or easy bleeding in your family. The doctor may also ask you about any medications you have been taking in the recent past or currently.
Depending on the outcome, the doctor will then probably recommend blood tests to check your blood platelets level and measure the ability and time it takes for your blood to clot. S/he might as well suggest that you see a hematologist, a medical practitioner who specializes in blood disorders, for more evaluations.
Bruising Easily Treatment
There is nothing much to be done in as far as bruising easily treatment is concerned. Bruises are formed when blood capillaries rupture beneath the skin due to injury or impact, but the dark red,purple, or black discoloration usually disappear on their own as the body reabsorbs the blood. Several intervention measures can however help to speed up the healing process.
Among the home care bruising easily treatment options to consider are:
Cold compresses: Applying an ice pack compress helps to constrict the blood vessels and thus reduce inflammation and tenderness. You should however not apply ice packs directly on the bruises as this can damage the skin. Instead, wrap the icepack – frozen peas can as well serve thepurpose – in a towel before placing it on the affected area of skin for 20 minutes, three times or so a day.
Warm compresses: After applying cold compresses long enough to reduce the inflammation (72 hours will do), your next course of action is to place warm compresses on the bruised area of skin to help enhance the reabsorption of blood into the body. To do that, dip a towel in warm water, wring out excess water, and then place it on the bruises.
Elevate the affected area: This is especially effective for bruised legs. Keep the legs elevated helps to reduce the inflammation associated with bruising. It helps to keep the leg elevated as much above the heart as possible; lying flat on your back with the leg propped up should do the trick.
Over-the-Counter medications: taking OTC anti-inflammatory drugs such asacetaminophen can help to reduce inflammation. You should however never take aspirin fortreatment of bruises as it can slow down clotting of blood and worsen the bruising.
When to See Your Doctor
You should seek immediate attention if bruising seems to occur very frequently or is accompanied by bleeding elsewhere in the body e.g. on gums, in urine etc.
You should also talk to your doctor if bruising is accompanied by excess swelling or pain, more so if you are taking medications such as pradaxa, lovenax, and Coumadin, all of which have blood-thinning effects. Lastly, if a bruise takes longer than a couple weeks to improve, it might as well be time to see your doctor.
How to Stop Bruising Easily Naturally
One of our valued readers recently asked in the comments section of another article, “I think age is catching up with me. I have occasional bruises from out of the blues even without sustaining any injury. Do you have ant tips on how to stop bruising easily naturally?”
In addition to cold and hot compresses and keeping the legs elevated, all which happens to be natural healing approaches, here are some more tips to stop bruising easily naturally:
- Blueberries: Blueberries are rich n flavonoids and vitamin C which aid in the formation of collagen, an important component of the skin. The flavonoids help to strengthen weakened capillary walls that are often to blame for easy bruising.
- Bilberry extracts: According to Andrew Weil, MD, bilberry contains anthocyanosides which help to reduce bruising by stabilizing the collagen in the skin while increases the level of intracellular uptake of vitamin C.
- Increase your diet intake of vitamin C e.g. cabbage and watercress. Although not as that anatural option, you may also consider taking 200 mg of vitamin C every day.