Why Do We Bruise Easily?

bruises christy gordon

A bruise is blood that has leaked into your skin. The blood is red, but it appears blue when seen though the skin layers. Bruises can be frustrating, especially for women who always get them on their legs the day they wear their new INC empire-waist jersey dresses.

Bruises are a normal response to injury. Who among us has not walked into the corner of the bed or miscalculated the exact location of the coffee table when crossing the room? Most of the time bruising does not indicate any underlying diseases, except for clumsiness.

Women bruise more easily than men, especially on their thighs, calves and buttocks. This easy bruising is because women have exposed blood vessels and thinner skin as compared to men, so even unnoticed injuries to their legs leave noticeable bruises.

Usually bruising is a minor, lifelong problem. However, if bruising develops rapidly or is getting progressively worse, then investigation is needed. Also, bruising that is associated with taking medications like aspirin, plavix or coumadin should be discussed with a physician. Bruises that appear on the face, back, or abdomen are not typical and should also be evaluated by a physician. Also, if bruising is accompanied by bleeding such as heavy periods, recurrent nose bleeds, bleeding from the gums, or blood in your urine or stool, then you should see a doctor.

There is little you can do to prevent bruises. When bruising is the result of taking certain medications such as ibuprofen, fish oil or ginkgo, then stopping these can lessen bruising. Also, wearing long sleeves and long pants can be the difference in whether a bruise develops or not after a minor injury.

After an injury, try to minimize the amount of blood that leaks out to minimize the bruise. Sit down and apply pressure to the injured spot for 10-15 minutes. You can also use ice, but only for 15-20 minutes (longer than 20 minutes can cause worsening of the bruise). Apply ice with a wash cloth or other layer between it and your skin. Avoid hot showers or hot baths for 24 hours after the injury as the heat can restart bleeding into the skin.

Vitamin K and bromelain (found in pineapples) might be helpful in resolving bruises more quickly. Look for them in topical products or in oral supplements that can be taken for a few days after a bruise develops. And look out for the coffee table.

Post written by Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, Copyright The Derm Blog 2009.

Photo: Christy Gordon (flickr)