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Older skin and easy bruising

Bruising is common with ageing. Bruising occurs when an injury to the skin damages small blood vessels causing the blood vessels to break open and leak under the skin. 


Why does elderly skin bruise easily?

Older people can bruise easily, especially on areas prone to injury like the arms and lower legs. As we age, we lose the protective fatty layer of our skin. Our capillaries become more fragile and prone to rupture.

Exposure to the sun can also damage skin causing discolouration and easy bruising. Women are more likely to bruise easily, even a small bump can result in a bruise.  

For some people, certain medications and dietary supplements can contribute to easy bruising. Older people taking blood thinners or drugs that reduce the bodies ability to clot may experience increased bruising. 

Corticosteroids used to manage conditions such as asthma and eczema can cause the skin to thin and may contribute to bruising without swelling. 


When should bruising be investigated? 

It's always worth mentioning to a doctor any new bruises as they won't always be visible. For some older people, easy bruising may be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition or blood clotting problem. 

A doctor may review current medications or request further blood tests to investigate the cause of any bruising. Always mention to a doctor if you're taking herbal medicines and dietary supplements such as Vitamin E, Gingko and any over the counter pain killers.

Bruising that occurs for no apparent reason, in conjunction with a fever or illness, a rash or itching skin, new medication or bruising accompanied by bleeding of the gums, nose or intestinal tract should be investigated by a doctor. 

Elder abuse is also a consideration when investigating bruising in the elderly. It's worthwhile asking a loved one with a new bruise, "How did you get that bruise?"


How long does a bruise take to heal?

A bruise will normally take about 2 weeks to heal. Symptoms of bruising include pain, swelling and changes in skin colour. As a bruise heals it will change colour. From red to dark blue or purple, then finally a greenish yellow colour before turning back to normal. 

Bruises can be painful and unsightly. For a new bruise, applying a cold compress to the skin and elevating the affected area may help relieve discomfort and reduce swelling.


How can I prevent easy bruising? 

To protect the skin from injury and easy bruising consider the use of arm and leg protectors. These garments fit snuggly like a sports sock over the arms and lower legs cushioning the skin from damage.

Remove furniture with sharp edges such as low lying coffee tables that can contribute to skin damage from slips and trips.  

Wearing long sleeve clothing can protect the skin and hide unsightly looking bruises. Protect the skin from further damage by reducing exposure to the sun and keeping skin well hydrated.

 

 
 

 


 

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References

Mayo Clinic
Easy bruising: Common as you age
Accessed 24/10/11 

National Institute of Aging
Skin care and Aging
Accessed 24/10/11

 

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