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Bruising easily or bruises that last a long time

Bruising easily does not mean that you have a serious health problem, especially if bruising is minimal or only shows up once in a while. Women bruise more easily than men, especially from minor injuries on the thighs, buttocks, and upper arms.

Older adults often bruise easily from minor injuries, especially injuries to the forearms, hands, legs, and feet. As a person ages, the skin becomes less flexible and thinner because there is less fat under the skin. The cushioning effect of the skin decreases as the fat under the skin decreases. These changes, along with skin damage from exposure to the sun, cause blood vessels to break easily. When blood vessels break, bruising occurs.

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Occasionally easy bruising is a sign of a health problem and may be caused by:

  • A medicine, such as aspirin, blood thinners (anticoagulants), or some antibiotics.
  • Infection that causes the buildup of toxin in the blood or tissues (sepsis).
  • A bleeding or clotting disorder, such as hemophilia, von Willebrand's disease, or thrombocytopenia.
  • Other diseases that affect clotting. Examples include:
    • Chronic inflammatory diseases, such as lupus.
    • Liver disease, such as cirrhosis.
    • Some types of cancer, such as Hodgkin's disease, leukemia, or multiple myeloma.
  • Inflammation of a blood vessel (vasculitis).
  • Malnutrition, such as deficiencies of vitamins B12, C, or K, or folic acid.

Bruises that do not go away within 4 weeks of an injury may mean that another problem is preventing healing or that the injury was worse than you suspected.

Author Jan Nissl, RN, BS
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Tracy Landauer
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
Last Updated May 6, 2009

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 06, 2009
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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