If you fall off your bike or bump your leg on your nightstand, you can typically expect a purple bruise to appear. But what if you find yourself collecting an array of bruises that you have no recollection of earning?
“Easy bruising” is a common complaint many health care professionals hear. A bruise is typically nothing to be concerned about if it’s related to an injury or some sort of minor trauma. However, there are a few times when noticing more bruises than normal may be a cause for concern.
Here are a few potential explanations for why you’re bruising easily, plus expert-backed tips on what to do about them:
1. It could be your medication.
Some prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs may be responsible for your bruising woes.
“One would expect to bruise easily when taking an anti-coagulant, such as warfarin, or when taking aspirin, as these medications serve to make the blood thinner,” said Cynthia C. Obiozor, an internist, hematologist and oncologist in Berkeley, California.
She said fish oil, vitamin E and chronic steroids can also thin your blood and therefore make you more prone to bruising.
“Knowing what medication you are on ― sometimes aspirin is found in headache concoctions, for example ― and avoiding trauma when you take blood thinners can help, but unfortunately this is a common side effect,” said Roman Bronfenbrener, a clinical associate at the University of Pennsylvania Department of Dermatology and a dermatologist in practice at Yardley Dermatology Associates in Yardley, Pennsylvania.
2. Your diet may be a catalyst.
“Excessive bruising may be your body’s way of telling you that you need a more nutrient-rich diet,” said Rachel Fine, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of a To The Pointe Nutrition, a nutrition-counseling firm in New York.
Fine said a lack of vitamin C, which “helps with tissue repair,” could be a contributing factor.
So could not getting enough vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting, said Ysabel Montemayor, lead dietitian for meal delivery service Fresh ’n Lean.
Fiona B. Lewis, a registered dietitian and nutritionist and founder of LLBJ Culinary and Wellness Enterprises in Jackson, Missouri, suggested keeping a food diary to help keep track of which vitamins and minerals you’re eating. She suggested eating red bell peppers, citrus fruits, berries and tomatoes if you’re looking to add more vitamin C to your diet, and to make sure you’re getting plenty of leafy greens, kale, turnip greens, spinach or broccoli to help with your vitamin K intake.
3. You’ve spent too much time in the sun.
Excessive sun exposure could also be to blame for your bruises, said Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles.
“UV rays destroy collagen and cause dermal atrophy [skin thinning], leaving vessels susceptible to outside trauma,” Shainhouse said. “These painless bruises are called solar purpura.”
Saunas or hot yoga sessions can also play a factor.
“Heat will vasodilate superficial vessels in the skin ― the reason you look red afterwards or even during,” Shainhouse said. “Immediately afterward, you can be more susceptible to vessel trauma and breakage.”
Bronfenbrener suggested wearing sunscreen to protect yourself from UV rays.
4. You’re hitting the gym too hard.
Pushing it at the gym or engaging in a high-impact sport can lead to bumps, as well as torn muscle and connective tissue fibers, which can cause bruises to appear.
“The more physically active you are, the more likely you are to bruise or bleed,” said Tania Elliott, an associate attending at NYU Langone Health in New York City and a national spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
5. Blame it on your genes.
Believe it or not, bruising easily could be passed down from your ancestors.
“Genetics play a huge role,” said Chelsea Hollander, an internist at CareMount Medical in Cortlandt Manor, New York.
Khalid Saeed, a physician at Tampa Bay Concierge Doctor, a primary care practice in Tampa, Florida, said it’s more common for bruising easily to run in the women in a family.
“If you don’t have any other symptoms, it is usually nothing to worry about,” he said.
6. It can happen with age.
Older people tend to bruise more easily, which Saeed said is likely related to our skin thinning and our levels of collagen and elastin going down as we age.
To help protect yourself, Montemayor suggested eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated.
“Some vitamins and minerals that are associated with strengthening the skin include vitamin C, zinc and copper because they play roles in collagen formation,” she said.
7. You are ‘pseudo bruising.’
People with paler complexions may notice more bruises than the average person and therefore may think they have a tendency to bruise more easily, according to Obiozor. Sun damage can also lead to hyperpigmentation, which may also be mistaken for bruising.
Certain health conditions could also make it seem like your skin is bruised.
“[People] who have diabetes may notice skin discoloration that is mistaken as bruising but it is in essence chronic skin changes related to poor blood circulation,” she said.
8. You may be experiencing liver problems.
The liver is responsible regulating blood clotting, so a damaged liver could lead to bleeding and bruising.
Chronic alcohol use can damage your liver and also directly affect your blood cells, which would make you more likely to bruise easily, Elliott said.
So be wary if you drink a lot and do it often.
“If you are bruising more than usual and you’re a heavy drinker, it could be a sign you have cirrhosis,” Saeed said. “It may be life-threatening, so please see your doctor.”
9. You could have an underlying condition.
If you’ve ruled out everything above, you may want to have your doctor check to see if you have an underlying medical condition, such as hemophilia.
Platelets, a type of blood cell, are important because they help prevent easy bruising, Elliott said. When your platelet counts drop below a certain threshold, your blood cannot properly clot.
“Low platelets can be caused by blood disorders. However, medications, particularly antibiotics, as well as serious infections, can lead to low platelet counts,” Elliott added.
Conditions such as hemophilia tend to come with symptoms aside from just bruising. Keep an eye out for unexplained nosebleeds, prolonged bleeding from cuts or medical procedures and unexplained skin marks.
Iron deficiency anemia can also lead to bruising. And in rare cases, certain cancers ― such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma type cancers ― can cause easy bruising from platelet dysfunction.
When To Be Concerned About Bruising Easily
The general rule of thumb is to pay attention to what is normal for you.
“If you have never bruised easily, and now suddenly you are, it’s time to see your doctor who can do a thorough history, review any medicines or supplements you are taking, and, if needed, order some blood tests,” Elliott said.
Hollander added that location of a bruise can also be a factor in determining how serious your situation may be.
“Any bruising on the trunk or abdomen should be evaluated by a medical professional, as it may be a sign of a deeper or more internal bleed,” she said.
But smaller bruises on the extremities that are likely due to minor trauma with activity are typically nothing to worry about.
“For example, bumping into things is likely normal, even if you don’t necessarily recall an injury,” she said.
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