Bruising, or ecchymosis refers to a large red, blue, or purplish mark on the skin that changes color as it heals. It occurs due to the rupture of tiny blood vessels and bleeding beneath the skin. We all get occasional bruises from bumping into objects or falling on a hard floor.
A bruise, contusion, or ecchymosis is a red, blue, or purplish skin discoloration that happens when the blood vessels beneath the skin burst.
Occasional bruising after hitting against an object or falling is usually not a cause for worry.
More frequent bruising warrants immediate medical attention and workup.
Bruises that occur easily or without apparent reason may signal a bleeding disorder, mainly if there’s associated bleeding from other areas of the body.
Bruises are also common in those who take blood thinners.
Icing, compression, and elevation of the bruised area may help ease the discomfort.
However, if you've been bruising too easily, you should know what's causing it and what you can do about it. So, let’s dive into this topic.
Causes of easy bruising
Easy bruising can be a result of several factors. These include:
A host of factors contribute to bruising with age, such as:
- Thinning of skin.
- Reduced levels of collagen and elastin — connective tissue proteins that boost the skin’s elasticity and firmness and provide cushion to blood vessels.
- Slowed wound healing.
- Loss of subcutaneous fat that lies beneath the skin and works to insulate and protect the blood vessels.
Certain prescribed medications and herbal supplements also reduce the blood’s tendency to clot, leading to more bruising and bleeding. For instance:
Doctors prescribe these medicines to keep blood thin to prevent heart attack and stroke. However, in doing so, these medicines interfere with blood clotting, increasing the risk of easy bruising and bleeding. Examples include:
- Clopidogrel (Plavix)
- Warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)
- Enoxaparin (Lovenox)
NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) pain relievers
These medicines impair the function of platelets (cells involved in forming a clot). Examples include:
- Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
Chronic use tends to thin out the skin, causing easy bruising and bleeding.
Certain antibiotics and antidepressants, as well as chemotherapy drugs, can cause easy bruising.
Dietary supplements and herbs
Some nutritional supplements and herbs may also interfere with platelet function, causing you to bruise quickly. Medical literature mentions the following herbal medicines and supplements:
- Fish oil
- Aloe vera
- Saw palmetto
- St. John’s wort
- High-dose Vitamin E
- Dong Quai
Medical conditions that cause easy bruising
Medical conditions that can cause you to bruise easily include:
It is a group of hereditary bleeding disorders due to the deficiency of clotting factors VIII (8) or IX (9), causing excessive bleeding and severe bruising.
Von Willebrand disease (VWD)
VWD is an inheritable bleeding disorder that occurs due to the lack of von Willebrand factor (VWF). This factor helps platelets stick to the blood vessel lining at the site of a wound. These platelets eventually adhere to one another and form a clot. Not having enough VWF prevents platelet adhesion, and leads to huge, swollen bruises and extensive bleeding.
Vitamin K is an essential micronutrient that plays a role in the formation of clotting factors, thereby limiting bleeding. Its deficiency can cause easy bleeding and bruising.
Vitamin C helps strengthen small blood vessels and reduces the skin’s propensity for bruising. Hence, when lacking, skin is more prone to bruising. Moreover, vitamin C deficiency also causes gum bleeding and nosebleeds.
Low platelet counts
Platelets are blood cells that form a plug to stop bleeding. Being deficient in platelets puts you at risk of easy bruising and bleeding. The following conditions can lead to low platelet counts:
- A bone marrow disorder such as leukemia or lymphoma (bone marrow is a spongy tissue in the center of the bone that makes blood cells, including platelets).
- Disorders in which your immune system starts attacking your platelets, like immune thrombocytopenia, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Viral infections (HIV, chickenpox, herpes viruses, hepatitis B and C, etc.)
- Chronic alcoholism (alcohol inhibits platelet activity).
- Chronic liver disease (the enlarged spleen traps and destroys platelets).
What to do to heal a bruise faster?
Bruises usually disappear within 10 to 14 days when there’s no underlying medical problem. However, you can try the following tips at home to make bruises go away faster.
Try the R.I.C.E. (Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation) technique
Doctors prefer this treatment method to help ease injury-related pain, swelling, or discomfort.
Rest the bruised area by not overworking. If you’ve encountered severe contusion injury associated with pain, stop doing any activity that triggers pain. This step will keep the bruise from getting worse. How long you need to rest the injured area depends on its nature and severity.
2. Ice therapy
Ice the injured area to reduce blood flow. However, avoid icing the injury for more than 10 minutes at a time. Icing for extended periods could do more harm than good.
Intermittent icing for a few minutes several times a day helps narrow the injured blood vessels. As a result, fewer blood leaks into the nearby tissues. Eventually, these effects can lessen the visibility of bruises and speed up the healing process.
After icing the bruised area on and off for 48 hours, you can begin applying heat. The heat will help absorb the pooled blood. It will also help loosen tight muscles and alleviate any associated pain. The goal is to boost circulation and speed blood flow to the affected area.
You can use a heating pad, a hot water bottle, or a warm compress. Just be cautious not to burn the skin.
Wrap an elastic bandage around the bruised area. The wrap must be snugly fit but not too tight to hinder circulation. Compression helps:
- Squeeze the tissues to drive out fluid from the injured site.
- Prevent blood vessels from leaking.
- Minimize the severity of the bruise.
- Mitigate pain and swelling.
Prop up the bruised area to keep it above heart level. Elevation lowers the pressure in the affected blood vessels and helps control the bleeding. It also speeds drainage of the inflammatory fluid from the bruised site, thus limiting swelling and other complications.
Arnica is an herb used in homeopathy to curb pain, inflammation, and swelling, making it an ideal choice for any injury-related bruising. To use this herbal treatment, gently layer it on the bruise three to four times daily.
A 2021 clinical review showed promising effects of using arnica for pain relief and bruising. Another randomized trial revealed that 20% topical arnica efficiently alleviated laser-induced bruising and was more effective than low-dose vitamin K formulations.
Vitamin K cream
Since vitamin K helps with blood clotting, applying it over the bruise can lessen the severity of bruising. Doctors recommend applying vitamin K cream to the affected area at least twice daily.
A well-balanced, nutritious diet
Getting the proper nutrients can help speed up healing and reduce additional bruising. Try to consume foods containing vitamin C, vitamin K, and iron. Also, consider taking supplements after talking to your doctor.
When to consult a doctor?
While occasional easy bruising doesn’t always call for medical attention, check with your doctor right away if:
You are bruising more frequently.
- You can’t recall bumping into anything.
- You have unexplained bleeding in other areas of the body.
- You have uncontrollable bleeding.
- You have severe pain or tenderness.
- You experience any other bothersome symptoms.