Easy bruising overview
Bruising (ecchymosis) happens when small blood vessels
(capillaries) under the skin break. This causes bleeding within skin tissues.
You will also see discolorations from the bleeding.
Most of us get bruises from bumping into something from time
to time. Bruising sometimes increases with age. This is especially true in
women as the capillary walls become more fragile and the skin becomes thin. The
occasional bruise typically doesn’t cause much medical concern. If you’re bruising
easily and your bruises are large or accompanied by bleeding elsewhere, it
could be a sign of a serious condition that warrants medical attention.
Medications and easy bruising
Sometimes medications are needed to treat certain health
conditions and improve quality of life. However, the very medications you
depend on may be what’s causing or your easy bruising.
Medications that reduce
Certain medications can increase your tendency to bleed by
reducing your body’s ability to form clots. This can sometimes lead to easy
bruising. These medications are often used for heart attack and stroke prevention. Your
doctor may also prescribe these medications if you have atrial fibrillation,
deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, or a recent cardiac stent placement. These
(Xarelto) or apixaban (Eliquis)
Certain herbs and supplements are believed to affect your
body’s ability to clot and lead to easy bruising, though evidence for such side
effects is limited in the literature. Examples are:
- fish oil
- vitamin E
can increase the risk of bruising. This is especially the case with topical
corticosteroids, as these may thin out the skin. Topical steroids are often
used in the treatment of eczema
and other skin rashes. Oral forms may be used for asthma,
allergies, and severe colds.
known as NSAIDs, these medications are commonly used as pain relievers. Unlike
other pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), NSAIDs also reduce
swelling caused by inflammation. When used over a long period of time, these
drugs can increase bleeding. You may also be at risk if you take NSAIDs with
other medications that increase bleeding.
- ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- naproxen (Aleve)
- celecoxib (Celebrex)
- fenoprofen (Nalfron)
causes of easy bruising
When you bump against an object, your body normally responds
by forming clots to stop the bleeding, which prevents bruising. In cases of
severe impact or trauma, bruising may be unavoidable.
If you bruise easily, your inability to form clots may be
the result of an underlying medical condition. The formation of clots relies on
good nutrition, a healthy liver, and healthy bone marrow. If any of these factors
are slightly off, bruises can occur.
Some medical conditions that can cause easy bruising
- end stage kidney
- factor II, V,
VII, or X deficiency (proteins in the blood needed for proper clotting)
- hemophilia A
(deficiency of factor VIII)
- hemophilia B
(deficiency of factor IX), also known as “Christmas disease”
- liver disease
- low platelet
count or platelet dysfunction
- von Willebrand
Diagnosing easy bruising
While the occasional bruise is not normally a cause for
concern, easy bruising could be. If you notice more frequent bruising, then you
can work with your doctor to help determine the cause. Aside from a physical
exam to look at any bruises, your doctor will also likely ask you questions
about your family medical history.
Your doctor may also perform a blood test to measure your
platelet levels and the time it takes your blood to clot. This can help
determine how your body responds to minor injuries in which capillaries burst
and form bruises.
Easy bruising in children
children may be more prone to bruising. As with adults, some medications and
underlying conditions may be to blame. You should call your doctor if your
child experiences frequent, unexplained bruises along with:
- enlarged abdomen
- sweating and/or chills
- bone pain
- facial abnormalities
Most of the time, bruises go away on their own without care.
After several days, your body will reabsorb the blood that initially caused the
You can help treat the bruise to encourage quicker recovery.
If there is swelling and pain with bruising, the first line of treatment is to
apply a cold compress. Remember to put a barrier between the cold object and
your bare skin. If an arm or leg is involved, elevate the limb and apply a cold
compress for 15 minutes until the swelling is reduced. You can take
acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to treat the pain.
If your doctor finds that easy bruising is caused by certain
medications or medical conditions, they will help you modify your treatment
plan. Never stop taking any medications on your own.
While certain conditions and medications can increase
bruising, you may still be able to prevent bruises. One method is to take extra
care as you age. Skin in older adults is generally thinner, which can increase your
chances of bruising easily. You can help prevent bruising by:
- taking your time when walking
- practicing balancing exercises to prevent bumps and
- removing household hazards that you can trip over or
- wearing protective gear (like knee pads) when
- opting for long sleeves and pants to prevent minor
the right nutrients can also help counteract easy bruising. Be sure to eat
foods with vitamins C and K.
When to see a doctor
Call your doctor if you’re bruising more frequently than
usual and if bruising is accompanied by bleeding from anywhere else, such as in
your urine. This could indicate a serious condition that should be looked at
It’s also important to be aware that unexplained bruising
may be a sign of domestic violence or abuse. Your doctors are required by law
to ask you questions to make sure you are safe in your domestic situation.