BOD-ities: Sometimes I notice a bruise on my arm or leg in places that I don’t remember bumping into anything. Am I just forgetful, or is there something else causing this bruising that I should worry about?
In most cases, the answer to your question is neither. So, don’t panic.
Bruising occurs when blood from damaged blood vessels collects under the surface of the skin, forming a dark red or purple mark that can be tender or painful to the touch. You might not remember getting many bruises as a child but, as we age, we tend to bruise more easily because our skin gets thinner.
Other factors can make you more likely to bruise, too. Women are more likely than men to bruise because their blood vessels are more fragile and more likely to break. Athletes are more likely to bruise because of muscle damage from rigorous workouts.
Beyond these factors and the occasional injury, there are other factors that can cause the mystery bruises you’ve mentioned here, including:
- Sun damage to the skin
- A diet lacking in vitamins C or D
- OTC supplements and medications (e.g., fish oil, aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen)
- Prescription medications (e.g., steroids, blood thinners)
- Genetic history of blood disorders
While some of these may surprise you, they may also help to better explain why you’re getting those mystery bruises.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to make a bruise go away. It should start to fade within a few days but, as you age, it may take longer to heal. You can, however, reduce your risk of bruising by managing the risk factors listed here.
If you’re a smoker, quit. If you regularly use any of these over-the-counter or prescription medications and are concerned about too much bruising, talk to your doctor about whether or not there alternatives you can use. Protect your skin from sun damage by using a strong SPF and wearing hats, sunglasses and clothing with UVA and UVB protection. Finally, opt for a diet that’s rich in Vitamin C and D with foods like dairy, cereal, eggs, oranges, cauliflower, tomatoes, and leafy greens.
The cause of your bruises is likely nothing to worry about. However, in rare instances, it could be a sign of a health condition that requires a doctor’s attention. Make an appointment with your primary care doctor if you notice bruising that:
- Occurs in clusters
- Occurs in areas of the body that it would not normally occur, like the back or neck
- Does not disappear after several days
- Occurs in conjunction with other unusual symptoms
- Also bleeds
These could be signs of a blood disorder, and your doctor can help refer you to a specialist for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Remember, your bruising likely isn’t cause for concern. Taking steps to manage your health risks is a good first step and, of course—so is watching your step!