With age comes limited strength and increased vulnerability. One form in which this occurs is in the risk of bruising, which becomes more prevalent with age. It’s common for older adults to bruise from impacts that wouldn’t normally have left a mark in their younger years, and those bruises can take much longer to heal.
Bruises result from ruptured capillaries near the surface of the skin. These tiny blood vessels bleed out a little under the skin and leave a mark. Over time, the blood is reabsorbed into the body as blood cells break down. In older adults, their blood vessels are more fragile and slower to heal, which can result in larger bruises from minor impacts.
Other factors that can contribute toward elderly bruising include:
• Dietary factors: Some supplements and vitamins, such as ginkgo, vitamin E, and fish oil, have a blood-thinning effect. This makes blood take longer to clot and can therefore lead to larger bruises.
• Medications: Aspirin and anticoagulants diminish your blood’s ability to clot. While this is useful for preventing more disastrous health problems (like stroke), it can worsen bruising. Corticosteroids used to asthma, eczema, allergies, etc., can make skin thinner, making it more likely that an impact will result in a bruise.
• Disease: Some diseases increase the risk of bruising. Some examples include leukemia, liver disease, bone marrow disorders, and platelet disorders, which all affect blood cells and limit your blood’s ability to clot.
Another cause of bruising may be elder abuse. Rough handling or negligent action will often leave bruises in unusual areas such as the face.
Normally, bruises aren’t a problem. They don’t pose a risk of infection, and they tend to heal on their own. However, they may be a cause for concern if they develop for no discernible reason or occur suddenly after starting a new medication.