We’ve all been there. Maybe it happened when you were getting dressed for work, soaking in the tub, or doing a hair and makeup check in the mirror. You suddenly noticed a purplish mark on your skin and immediately wondered, “Where in the world did that come from?”
Bruises are extremely common. And they make perfect sense when you smack your elbow on the door frame or run your leg into a coffee table. But what about those mystery bruises that seem to appear out of thin air? Why do some of us bruise so easily?
What Is A Bruise?
Bruising occurs when tiny blood vessels burst due to the impact of a blow or injury. When those small blood vessels—a.k.a capillaries—near the skin’s surface are broken, blood leaks under the skin and pools.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says that when you bump into something, that can result in an injury to muscle and connective tissue. The pooled blood then starts to form an ugly black and blue blemish. This eventually changes color and gradually fades as the collected blood is reabsorbed back into your body.
Where Do Unprovoked Bruises Come From?
Some of us don’t have to run into things or get into fights to find bruises on our skin. Sometimes those unsightly marks just pop up with no provocation.
The experts say that if that’s happening to you, there’s likely a perfectly good explanation for it.
You Have An Active Lifestyle
If you regularly hit the gym or just have an overall active lifestyle, bruises are bound to happen. Coming into contact with workout equipment or other athletes can leave its mark. When you push yourself physically or play contact sports, it can cause tiny tears in your blood vessels. This can cause bleeding underneath the skin.
But according to Dr. Margaret Ragni, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and director of the Hemophilia Center of Western Pennsylvania, those types of bruises are nothing to worry about. They don’t require treatment.
You’re Getting Older
The truth is, as you age, you might start to notice more bruises. This is because you are slowly losing the fatty layer underneath your skin, which gives you less protection when you bump into something. What’s more, your blood vessels are weakening. This means they can easily be injured, and minor bumps can leave a bruise
“As we age, our skin and blood vessels become more fragile; we lose collagen, elastin, and some of the subcutaneous fat that cushions and protects our small blood vessels,” Dr. Suzanne Friedler, dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology PC in Manhattan, told Health.
It’s In Your Genes
Just like curly hair, dimples, and susceptibility to toenail fungus, the ability to bruise easily can run in your family.
Women also tend to have more delicate blood vessels, which can be easily injured and bruised. This is especially true on the thighs and upper arms.
“If it bothers you—if it recurs or it occurs and you can’t explain it and you’re concerned, or you have a family history of a problem—then you should see somebody,” Dr. Ragni advises.
You Spent A Lot Of Time In The Sun
Some older adults have a type of bruising known as “actinic purpura” or “senile purpura.”
These unsightly purple patches show up on the back of the hands and forearms, and they’re due to many years of sun exposure that have weakened blood vessel walls.
You’re On Medication
If you take the blood thinner warfarin, or use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen, this can lead to easy bruising.
Taking a pill on occasion probably won’t cause a bruising problem. However, long-term use could be a reason you’re bruising easily.
If you are taking corticosteroids to treat asthma, COPD, eczema, or rheumatoid arthritis, this could be another reason why you bruise easily. This is because these are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs, and bruising is a common side effect.
We should also note that over-the-counter dietary supplements like ginkgo, ginseng, and garlic can thin your blood. This can make it harder for the blood to clot when you knock into something.
You Have A Vitamin Deficiency
Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting. So, if you’re not getting enough of it, it’s possible more bruising will occur.
A lack of Vitamin C could also be the culprit. This essential vitamin helps make collagen, an important protein that keeps your blood vessels healthy.
Does Easy Bruising Ever Indicate A More Serious Problem?
If you experience easy bruising, chances are you can blame one of the reasons we’ve already mentioned. However, easy bruising can be a sign of a serious underlying condition.
If you have frequent, large bruises that appear on your back, torso, or face, it’s time to see a doctor. The same can be said if you suddenly begin bruising after starting a new medication and have a family history of easy bruising. These can be signs of abnormally functioning platelets or problems with proteins that help the blood clot.
If you have any questions or concerns about your frequent bruises, talk to your doctor.