It happens to everyone. You bang your toe on the closet door, and before too long, it turns a garish black and blue. But sometimes you spot a bruise and you can't figure out how you got it. Check out these common things that may cause those blotches and learn how to prevent them.
Do you bruise more easily now than you did when you were younger? Totally normal. As you age, your skin gets thinner and loses the protective layer of fat that acts as a cushion when you bump into something. Also, your blood vessels get more fragile. Both of these things mean you get more bruises.
Some Medicines and Supplements
If you take aspirin or a blood thinner, don't be surprised by the occasional black-and-blue mark. Some supplements, like fish oil and ginkgo, can do it too.
Steroids like prednisone can also cause easy bruising, because they thin the skin. If you notice this happening, don't stop taking your medication, but do talk to your doctor about it.
Low Vitamin C
This nutrient is essential for healing, so if you don't get enough, you may bruise easily. You may also notice it takes a long time for cuts or scrapes to get better.
It's rare to have extremely low levels of vitamin C, but it's more likely to happen if you're older or you smoke.
It Runs in Your Family
If you, your mom, and your sister all turn black and blue from the tiniest bump, it may be a family thing. Some people (it's usually women) just have more fragile blood vessels, and that makes them more likely to bruise, especially on their upper arms, thighs, or butt. It may seem scary, but if you feel fine and don't have any other symptoms, it's probably nothing to worry about.
If you've been a sun worshipper all your life, you may notice your skin bruises more easily. That's because over time, the sun slowly weakens your skin and the tiny blood vessels underneath it.
These bruises are a little different. They aren't caused by bumping into something, they don't usually feel tender when you touch them, and they take longer to heal. You're most likely to see them on the backs of your hands and arms.
Some conditions can make it harder for your blood to clot. One you've probably heard of is hemophilia. These are rare, but they can be life-threatening if you don't treat them.
Blood disorders usually cause symptoms other than bruising. If you're having nosebleeds for no reason, if your gums bleed a lot after you brush or floss, or if small cuts or scrapes seem to bleed heavily, call your doctor.
An extra-hard workout can sometimes cause bruises. That's because you're pushing your muscles with so much effort that it leads to tiny tears in your blood vessels.
A Zumba class or 30 minutes on the treadmill aren't likely to cause a problem, but weightlifting or running a marathon can do it. If you notice marks on your arms or legs after an intense workout, try the "RICE" method:
- Ice the area
- Compression (lightly wrap the muscles)
- Elevation (raise your arms or legs above your heart)
We don't mean you woke up with a black-and-blue mark because you bumped into something after one too many cocktails. But if you often drink a lot of alcohol and you tend to bruise easily, it may mean you've got liver problems.
The liver makes proteins that the blood needs for clotting, so if it's not doing its job, you may bleed or bruise more easily. It could be a sign that you've got a condition called cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver. It's a serious illness, so see your doctor.
Some Types of Cancer
It's not likely, but it's possible that your bruises are a sign of blood cancer, such as leukemia. If you also feel tired, achy, and weak all the time, or lose weight without trying to, give your doctor a call.
Tips to Prevent and Treat Bruises
No matter how careful you are, you'll probably still get them from time to time. To avoid bruises, crack down on clutter at home and always wear protective gear when you exercise or play sports.
Once you've got a bruise, you can help it heal faster. Raise the area where you're injured and put ice on it. That will make you feel better and keep the bruise from getting bigger.
Most bruises aren't much more than a nuisance, but if it's very painful, or if you've had it for 2 weeks and it doesn't show signs of getting better, call your doctor.