Find out why you bruise easily and what to look out for
Bruising can be a more frequent occurrence for some people, such as the old or the very young. Nevertheless, it is rare but not unheard of for bruising easily to be a side-effect of a more serious health condition. In this page, our muscle and joint expert Earle Logan describes the people more vulnerable to bruising, and discusses the medical complaints associated with recurrent contusions.
An introduction to bruising easily
Bruising occurs when part of your body is damaged to the extent that small blood vessels close to the skin are ruptured and blood leaks out into tissues under the skin.
Bruises appear as small patches of abnormal colour (normally purple or blue, then green or yellow) under the skin. If the injury is severe, the bruise may be accompanied by swelling. With most injuries, symptoms disappear within ten days.
Some bruises however, can appear without any apparent injury, occurring ‘out of the blue’. Some people find that these unexplained bruises happen quite frequently and simply accept that they ‘bruise easily’.
Bruising easily is usually normal
Bruising easily is not usually a sign of major health problems.
- Some people are simply more prone to bumps than others. Bruises are picked up as they knock into tables, chairs and other objects without realising it
- Children are more accident prone than adults. They run around, fall over, pick themselves up and do it all over again. The result may be alarming-looking bruises appearing but with no apparent discomfort or harm to themselves
- An older person bruises more easily because skin and tissues under the skin become thinner and less able to support the small blood vessels present. In addition, walls of blood vessels weaken with age. These factors make it more likely for blood vessels to rupture or break with the minimum of force or damage
- A minor injury can lead to more bruising than you expect. For example, you might trip on a pavement and think nothing of it as you suffer no pain. Later, you might find a bruise as a result of a mild ankle sprain or muscle strain.
Bruising easily as a sign of health conditions
Occasionally, bruising easily can be the result of an illness. These are usually serious conditions requiring the attention of the medical profession and include:
- Infections – some viral and bacterial infections can cause a build up of toxins in the blood and an increased susceptibility to bruising
- Blood clotting disorders
- Some types of cancer (eg. leukaemia)
- Vitamin deficiencies (eg. vitamin B12)
- Chronic inflammatory diseases
- Medication – aspirin, anticoagulants and some antibiotics can increase susceptibility to bruising
What to look out for
The majority of people who bruise easily will have no underlying serious health condition to worry about. However, seek medical advice if you:
- Notice an increased amount of unexplained bruises on your body
- Have a fever
- Experience unexplained pain
- Are worried about any other aspect of your health (eg. A change in bowel habit, persistent cough)
- Are on medicines to thin your blood.
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