If you tumble down the stairs or whack your elbow on a table, you probably expect to see a colorful bruise shortly thereafter. But if you are turning black and blue at the slightest bump, or you notice a new bruise and don’t know how it got there, you might worry that’s something’s terribly wrong.
A bruise occurs when blood vessels are injured, causing blood to collect under the skin and in surrounding tissue. The tenderness, swelling, and gradual change of color occur as the body works to break down the collected blood. Caroline Murtha, a family nurse practitioner in San Antonio, Texas, explains that as we age, our blood vessels may naturally become thinner and less elastic. Couple that with the fact that we may also experience a decrease in vessel-protecting fat in our arms and legs, and you’ve got yourself a bruise waiting to happen.
There are, however, other factors that could be at play — namely medications that inhibit blood clotting. “An increase in bruising can occur as a side effect of various medications,” Murtha says.
If bruising is a side effect of a medication, ask your doctor about other options. Other than that, there’s really not much you can do to prevent a bruise, but you can take measures to minimize the appearance of it. Applying a cold compress to the area immediately following an injury can help decrease swelling and possibly reduce bruising. And as the bruise changes colors and begins to fade, makeup can help camouflage it. Murtha recommends using a green-tinted color-correcting concealer for redness, and a yellow concealer for a bruise with purple shades. Some people swear by twice-daily application of arnica gel to the bruised area.
Usually never. Murtha says that minor bruising in areas with little padding — knees, elbows — is common. But if you are experiencing frequent bruising without trauma, you could have an issue with blood clotting, though “typically, if there is an underlying condition, there will be other common symptoms, too, such as frequent nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or prolonged bleeding with minor cuts and scrapes,” she says.
If you are experiencing any of those symptoms, see your doctor. Otherwise, watch your step, invest in some good cosmetics, and be patient.
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