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Bruises are caused as a result of rupture of small capillaries present on the surface of the skin. The blood oozing out of these capillaries appears as a blue or purple patch on the skin. As the blood gets reabsorbed by the body, the bruise mark tends to disappear on its own. Bruising is more common in females and in the elderly people. Some of the factors responsible for easy bruising include:

  • Aging of the capillaries: The walls of the capillaries become fragile with age and tend to rupture easily. Moreover, the tissue supporting the vessels also weakens.
  • Skin becomes thin: The fatty layer which protects the capillaries gets depleted with aging. Apart from that, the skin also thins out. So the capillaries get ruptured easily.

Besides aging, bruising is also seen in certain individuals on some specific medications. These medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin, steroid based anti-inflammatory medicines like prednisolone, and blood thinning medicines like warfarin. These medicines increase the risk of rupture of blood vessels and consequent bruising.

Bruising can also be a result of deficiency of platelets or abnormalities with the clotting factors. Some of these conditions include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, hemophilia and von Willebrand's disease. Viral diseases may also lead to frequent bruising. Deficiency of vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin C and vitamin K can also be a cause of easy bruising.

However, there are times when bruising may be indicative of a serious problem. Some of them include liver cirrhosis, lupus, Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia.

In patients suffering from leukemia, the bone marrow is unable to produce normal white blood cells. Instead, abnormal cells are produced which are called as leukemic cells. These cells are produced very rapidly and so the normal production of red blood cells and platelets is also hampered.

A patient suffering from leukemia has a deficient oxygen supply to the different body parts because of less number of red blood cells, lowered immunity because of less number of healthy white blood cells, and tendency to bleed and bruise easily because of reduced number of platelets.

Some of the common signs of leukemia include:

  • Anemia: Patients suffering from leukemia often appear pale because of the reduced number of red blood cells.
  • Bruising: Small petechial hemorrhages develop underneath the skin because of bleeding from the capillaries. These patients also complain of bleeding from the nose and gums and blood may be present in their stool and urine.
  • Increased risk of infections: This is because the number of healthy white blood cells is reduced. Infection may be accompanied with sore throat, fever and skin rashes.
  • Lymph nodes may become swollen and inflamed
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness and fatigue

However, diagnosis of leukemia cannot be made on the basis of symptoms alone. These symptoms may be present in many other diseases.

To confirm the diagnosis of leukemia, the physician generally orders a complete blood count. If the white cells count appears suspicious, the patient is made to undergo a bone marrow biopsy.

The bone marrow sample is examined under microscope for the presence of any abnormal cells. The cells are further examined to detect chromosomal abnormalities characteristic of leukemia. It is only when the physician is convinced on all these counts that a diagnosis of leukemia is made.

Therefore, any patient who complains of frequent bruising and weight loss must not jump to the conclusion that he is suffering from leukemia.

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