Wed | Apr 1, 2020

Six surprising reasons you bruise easily

Published:Wednesday | February 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Bruised skin
Bruised skin

When you bump into something with enough force, the blood vessels underneath your skin can break, causing blood to leak out of them. That results in the purplish-blue mark you see on your skin.

But sometimes you don't need to hit your leg or arm hard to cause a bruise. That's because certain things can make those blood vessels more susceptible to damage - causing you to bruise easily.

Here are six unexpected things that might be making you bruise easily, and how to avoid them.


1. Spending too much time in the sun.


Over time, the sun's harmful UV rays can cause collagen - the spongy tissue in the second layer of your skin - to dissolve. Collagen acts like a cushion to protect the network of blood vessels underneath.

Without enough of that padding, your blood vessels are more prone to rupture, which causes the black and blue marks.

And it can happen quicker than you might think. Theoretically, one intense summer could be enough to have an effect. The solution is to always wear sunscreen when you're outside, and reapply regularly.


2. Getting older.


Even if you don't spend hours a day in the sun, over time, unprotected exposure to the sun's UV rays will still cause your collagen to break down and get thinner - making you more susceptible to bruising.

Age-related collagen breakdown happens at a different rate for everyone, and it depends on the thickness of your skin and how susceptible you are to sun damage. For instance, fair-skinned people are usually more vulnerable than darker-skinned people.

There's no foolproof way to prevent age-related skin thinning and the bruising that might come with it. But using sunscreen can preserve your skin's collagen for longer.


3. Drinking too much.


After just a few alcohol drinks, your skin becomes more susceptible to bruising after a trip, fall, or bump.

Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it causes your blood vessels to temporarily relax and expand. This widening increases blood flow through your body, including near the surface of your skin.

More blood flowing through your vessels means that more blood can escape if a blood vessel happens to get ruptured, for example, if your leg bumps into the corner of a table.

For the average healthy person drinking one drink or so per night, a booze-related bruise isn't cause for concern. It should go away on its own in three to four days.


4. Taking certain medications.


Blood-thinning medications like warfarin and heparin - which are used for conditions like abnormal heart rhythm and congenital heart defects - can put you at greater risk for bruising.

Anticoagulants increase the time for blood to clot - or to turn from a liquid to a gel-like substance that stops bleeding. That's why patients on blood thinners tend to bruise easier and more severely.

Over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can also have a blood-thinning effect because they inhibit a specific enzyme required for blood clotting.

Avoid using them for more than a week at a time, unless under the direction of your doctor.


5. Diet not nutritionally balanced.


Vitamins C, K, and B12 all play a role in helping blood clot. When you don't get enough, even a light bump could result in a big bruise.

Nutritional deficiencies aren't common in young, healthy guys who eat a varied diet. But if you live on junk food or don't eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, you could be at risk for missing vitamins C or K. Other signs of vitamin C deficiency include fatigue and slow wound healing; signs of a vitamin K deficiency include nosebleeds or bleeding gums.

You might also have a harder time getting enough B12 if you're vegan or vegetarian, since it's mainly found in animal proteins. Other signs of B12 deficiency include numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, weakness, and fatigue. If you think you have a gap in your diet, consider talking with your doctor or a registered dietician.


6. Having a serious illness.


Usually, a few unexplained bruises are nothing to worry about. But in rare cases, they could be a sign of a serious illness, like type 2 diabetes or leukemia.

If you've had unusual or unexplained bruising for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor to rule out anything major.

High blood sugar causes the skin to heal less effectively, upping the risk for severe bruises or bruises that take longer to heal.

And people with leukemia have fewer platelets in their blood to plug bleeding blood vessels, which can also increase bruising susceptibility.

So if you've been experiencing more unexplained bruising than usual, your doctor should check it out. He or she will perform blood tests or other diagnostic tests to determine the cause.