Q. Is bruising easily a health concern?
A. A bruise forms when small blood vessels under the skin break, dumping some blood into the tissue that can be seen from the surface of the skin. Gary Chuang, director of the Dermatologic & Cosmetic Surgery Center at Tufts Medical Center, says that one of the main reasons people bruise more easily is because of age. As we get older, the skin loses collagen, as well as the ability to retain water. “These two building blocks of skin are basically like air bags that protect the blood vessels underneath,” he says. Simple bumps and dings leave bruises because there’s less of a cushion protecting their blood vessels.
People may bruise easily if their blood vessels bleed more readily or if their blood is slow to clot.
Chuang explains that several common blood-thinning medications can promote bruising, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and warfarin, as can supplements that do the same, such as vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids, garlic or onion extracts, ginger extract, and St. John’s wort. The corticosteroid prednisone can promote bruising by thinning the skin.
Inherited conditions that interfere with blood clotting, such as hemophilia, also make people bruise, typically from a young age. These conditions require medical treatment to replace the missing clotting factors.
Chuang says that bruising is a health concern if it’s a sign of poor clotting. If you also bleed easily and can’t stop a wound from bleeding after applying pressure for 20 minutes, see a doctor.