Why is Increased Bruising More Common with Aging?

Why is Increased Bruising More Common with Aging?

Do you bruise too easily? If you’re surprised to see a big purple bruise after lightly bumping your hand or leg, it could be a sign you’re getting older. Increased bruising is more common with aging – but it can also be a sign of more serious health problems.  

Bruises form when blood vessels are damaged causing red blood cells to leak out into the tissues – leading to a discolored and often painful area. Some people form bruises more easily than others, but aging can play a role. As a person ages, the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis, thins down and the subcutaneous fat that surrounds the blood vessels decreases in thickness. This leaves the blood vessels more prone to injury.

To some degree, the walls of blood vessels and capillaries become weaker and more fragile with age which causes increased bruising with minor trauma. If you’ve ever looked at the arms and legs of an elderly person, you may have seen how thin and fragile their skin looks – and you may have even noticed some bruising.

Bruise Too Easily?: When It’s More Than Just Aging

Although easy bruising is more common with aging, it can also be a sign of more serious health issues. Any condition that alters platelet levels – blood cells that aid in blood clotting – or reduces clotting factors causes a person to bruise more easily.

A person who has easy bruising and fatigue, night sweats, or other symptoms of illness needs a thorough examination and blood tests to rule out blood and platelet related diseases such as leukemia and other conditions that cause decreased platelet levels.

People with liver disease bruise more easily because the liver produces the clotting factors that prevent bleeding into the tissues. Certain types of infection can also lower the platelet count and cause increased bruising.

Even medications can reduce platelet levels and cause easy bruising. People who take aspirin or blood thinners bruise too easily too because of the effects these medications have on clotting factors and platelet levels. Steroid medications used to treat autoimmune or lung problems cause thinning of the skin, which puts a person at greater risk of bruising.

Some people are born with an inherited deficiency of certain clotting factors, which causes them to bruise with only slight injury. Even supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, ginger, garlic, and ginkgo can cause easy bruising.

Increased Bruising: The Bottom Line?

Easy bruising is more common with age, but bruising can also be a sign of illness. Anyone who bruises too easily – with only minor trauma – needs a complete blood cell and platelet count especially if they have easy bruising and fatigue or other signs of illness. Don’t ignore this important sign.

Dr. Kristie

References:

Merck Manual. 18th Edition. 

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