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People usually get bruises by bumping or falling into things. This happens because the blood vessels under the affected area break, making blood leak beneath the skin. These bruises can appear bluish black, but over the course of their healing, bruises can change into a range of colors including purplish black, yellow-green, or reddish blue.

Some people bruise more easily than others. Bruising easily is not necessarily a symptom of any serious health problem, especially if they are few and infrequent. Older individuals tend to bruise easily because their skin has become thinner and lost elasticity over the course of time. Moreover, the increased exposure to sunlight over their lifetime has caused natural, but irreparable skin damage. Men bruise less easily than women, who may bruise easily from minor injuries on the upper arms, buttocks, and thighs.

The tendency to easily bruise also can be an inherited trait of children from their parents.

On the other hand, a sudden increase of bruises or unexplained bruising can be a result of any of the following:

  • Bleeding/clotting disorders such as hemophilia, thrombocytopenia, von Willebrand's disease
  • Diseases that disturb the clotting mechanism such as cirrhosis and lupus
  • Some types of cancer including leukemia, multiple myeloma, and Hodgkin's disease
  • Chronic use of certain medications, including anticoagulants, such as Aspirin and other blood thinners, steroids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • A lack of folic acid and vitamins C, K, and B12
  • Vasculitis, or inflammation of a blood vessel
  • Sepsis (severe infection causing an accumulation of toxin in the tissues or blood)

Generally, bleeding tendencies are often linked with coagulation disorders (coagulopathy), while bruising easily is linked with platelet disorders. These two may or may not occur together in a patient. These should both be considered as probable causes if bruising or bleeding is disproportionate to the size and depth of a wound. Coagulopathy occurs when blood fails to clot properly. This blood disorder may prevent blood from clotting, causing more blood to escape from an injured blood vessel before clotting takes place. A tiny blood vessel injury caused by a very slight bump can go unnoticed, but could result in significant bruising.

When to Seek Medical Care

In most cases, bruises are not serious and may disappear with simple home treatments. Seek help immediately if severe swelling, bruising, or pain arise within half an hour of an injury. A serious problem such as severe sprains or fractures may accompany bruising. If you suspect that the bruise is accompanied by a broken bone, proceed to the hospital immediately.

You should also call a doctor if your bruise does not improve or disappear within two to three weeks. If you are taking blood thinning medications for another medical condition, you may experience easy bruising. Ask your doctor about the type and dose of medications you can use to reduce bruising. If bruises occur frequently and appear for no apparent reason, it is best to have a medical consultation to rule out any condition such as coagulopathy.

Home treatments for bruises include rest, application of ice packs to reduce swelling and pain, compression, and elevation of the affected area.

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