Elderly Bruising: Risk Factors & Prevention

Why is easy bruising common in older adults?

Our bodies undergo a series of natural changes as we age-externally and internally. Our skin cells divide more slowly and skin begins to thin. Skin retains less moisture, causing it to become dry, scaly, and appear wrinkled. It loses its elasticity and instead of springing back, starts to sag. The skin's ability to repair itself diminishes, and wounds are slower to heal. 

Common as you age

Most bruises form when small blood vessels (capillaries) near the skin's surface are broken by the impact of a blow or injury — often on the arms or legs. When this happens, blood leaks out of the vessels and initially appears as a black-and-blue mark. Eventually your body reabsorbs the blood, and the mark disappears.

Generally, harder blows cause larger bruises. However, if you bruise easily, a minor bump — one you might not even notice — can result in a substantial bruise.

Some people — especially women — are more prone to bruising than are others. As you get older, your skin also becomes thinner and loses some of the protective fatty layer that helps cushion your blood vessels from injury.

Can medications and supplements contribute to easy bruising?

Aspirin, anticoagulant medications and anti-platelet agents reduce your blood's ability to clot. As a result, bleeding from capillary damage might take longer than usual to stop — which allows enough blood to leak out and cause a bruise. Certain dietary supplements, such as fish oil and ginkgo, also can increase your bruising risk due to a blood-thinning effect.

Topical and systemic corticosteroids — which can be used to treat various conditions, including allergies, asthma and eczema — cause your skin to thin, making it easier to bruise.

If you experience increased bruising, don't stop taking your medications. Consult your doctor about your concerns. Also, 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 might recommend avoiding certain over-the-counter medications or supplements.

How can I prevent or treat bruises?

To prevent minor bruising, eliminate household clutter that could cause bumps or falls. Long-sleeved shirts and pants can provide an extra layer of protection for your skin.

Once a bruise has formed, however, not much can be done to treat it. Most bruises eventually disappear as your body reabsorbs the blood — although healing might take longer as you age. It might help to elevate the affected area and apply ice. If the sight of a bruise bothers you, cover it with clothing or makeup.

You might not be able to eliminate easy bruising. However, taking simple steps to protect your skin and avoid injury can help you try to stay bruise-free.

Article from mayoclinic.org