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Easy bruising: Common as you ageFrom MayoClinic.com
Special to CNN.com
Yet another bruise. What caused that dark, unsightly mark on your leg? You don't recall bumping into anything. But lately you've been bruising much more often than you used to. Should you be concerned?
It's common to experience easy bruising with increasing age, and most bruises go away without treatment. Still, easy bruising can sometimes be a sign of a more serious problem.Age-related causes of easy bruising in older adults
Most bruises form when small blood vessels (capillaries) near your skin's surface are broken by the impact of a blow or injury. When this happens, blood leaks out of the vessels and initially appears as a bluish-black mark. Eventually your body reabsorbs the blood, and the mark usually disappears.
Some people — especially women — are more prone to bruising than are others. As you get older, several factors may contribute to increased bruising, including:
Generally, the harder the blow, the larger the bruise. However, if you bruise easily, a minor bump — one you may not even notice — can result in substantial discoloration. Your arms and legs are typical locations for bruises.Medications and supplements can cause easy bruising
Blood-thinning drugs such as aspirin and warfarin (Coumadin) or medications such as clopidogrel (Plavix) reduce your blood's ability to clot. Because of this, bleeding from capillary damage that would normally stop quickly may take longer to stop, allowing enough blood to leak out to cause a bruise.
Corticosteroids cause your skin to thin, making it easier to bruise. Don't stop taking your medications if you experience increased bruising. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and ask what you should do.
Certain dietary supplements such as fish oil, ginkgo, ginger and garlic also may increase your bruising risk, since these supplements have a blood-thinning effect. Make sure your doctor is aware of any supplements you're taking — especially if you're taking them while on a blood-thinning drug. Your doctor may recommend avoiding certain over-the-counter medications or supplements.When bruises indicate more serious problems
Bruising may also indicate something more serious, such as a blood-clotting problem or a blood disease. See your doctor if:
These signs and symptoms can indicate that you have low levels — or abnormal function — of platelets, components of blood that help it clot after an injury. To diagnose the cause of your bruising, your doctor may check your blood platelet levels or do tests that measure the ability of your blood to coagulate.
Other serious causes of bruising include domestic violence or abuse. If a loved one has an unexplainable bruise, particularly in an unusual location such as around the eye or face, inquire about the possibility of abuse.Avoiding bruises
Once a bruise has formed, not much can be done to treat it. Most eventually disappear as your body reabsorbs the blood.
If swelling is associated with the bruising, applying a cold compress for 20 minutes at a time and elevating the affected area may help. After the swelling has gone down, a warm compress may speed removal of the blood.
To prevent minor bruising, eliminate household clutter that could cause bumps or falls. Long-sleeved shirts and pants may provide an extra layer of protection for your skin. Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun to help you avoid its aging effects and the increased bruising risk that may result.
If the sight of your bruises bothers you, try covering them with makeup until they've healed.
May 25, 2007