It’s happened to all of us. Someone looks at your arm or leg and says “how did you get that bruise?!” When you look down at the purplish blue mark on your body you just cannot remember what could have caused it. You brush it off with a shrug. Maybe you say, “I probably ran into something. I don’t remember.”
Bruises are a normal part of everyday life for most people, but not all bruises are as harmless as they may seem. In fact, some bruising may indicate a serious medical condition that requires attention from your doctor.
What Is a Normal Bruise?
To be honest, there’s no such thing as a “normal” bruise. Our bodies bruise after an impactful injury breaks the capillaries near the surface of the skin. Blood leaks out of these broken vessels and pools under your skin’s surface, resulting in a purple, red or black mark. After a while, this blood is reabsorbed by the body and the mark disappears. Because every injury is different, and everyone’s body reacts to injury differently, no two bruises are the same.
What Causes Some People to Bruise Easier Than Others?
Not all bodies are the same. Because of this, some people bruise easier than others. There also may be other normal contributing factors. These can include:
- Age – As we get older, our skin thins and the collagen and fat, both of which provide protection from impact, diminish. Also, the blood vessels in older bodies don’t maintain the same structural integrity as in a younger body, so even a slight bump on a table could cause the vessels to break. This is why the older we get, the more easily we seem to bruise.
- Medication – Some medications, such as aspirin, impedes the blood’s ability to clot. The longer it takes blood to clot, the longer it will leak out from a broken blood vessel, resulting in a bruise. Other medications, such as corticosteroids that you may take for allergies or skin conditions may cause your skin to thin, which results in more bruises.
- Supplements – There are some dietary supplements that cause blood to thin, and this means that it takes longer for blood to clot. Fish oil and ginkgo are common supplements that have this effect in some people.
When Should I be Concerned About Bruising?
While most bruising is just the result of normal, everyday activities, there are some cases in which you need to see your doctor, such as:
- Painful swelling at the site of the bruise following an injury – this could indicate a sprain or fracture at the injury site.
- Sudden or frequent bruises (actually blood spots) that appear tiny, flat and red or purple on the skin which were not caused by injury – this could indicate an infection, a bleeding or clotting disorder, or more serious conditions that require medical attention.
Ultimately, if you are concerned about your health, the best thing to do is go and see your physician.
If you have a question about bruising, leave a comment!
Dr. Marjorie Broussard is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Cinco Ranch Clinic. She helps her patients manage chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Her clinical interests include preventive medicine and women’s health.