Bruising in older adults is quite common. The difficult part is identifying bruises, understanding their cause and preventing them. Here are some suggestions that can serve as a guide.
Bruises are caused when the small blood vessels near the skin’s surface are broken. The blood leaks out of the vessels and appear as a black-and-blue mark on the skin. As the body reabsorbs the blood, the mark disappears. The harder the blow to the skin, the larger the bruise.
The challenge with seniors is that as skin becomes thinner, bruises can occur more frequently and without any obvious cause. There are many different reasons.
First, it’s important to remember that women are sometimes more apt to bruise than others. Secondly, medications and supplements can cause bruising. Aspirin, anticoagulant medications and antiplatelet agents can reduce the blood’s ability to clot, causing bruises. Some dietary supplements like fish oil and ginkgo can also have a blood thinning effect. Third, using creams to treat allergies, asthma and eczema can make the skin thinner and therefore, make it easier to bruise.
All of these concerns should be discussed with the senior’s primary care physician. Some medications may be adjusted, and different creams may address skin conditions while reducing bruising. A doctor can also check blood platelet levels or check the blood’s ability to clot
Sometimes bruising can be the symptom of a more serious condition, like a blood clotting problem or blood disease. They may indicate problems with proteins that help the blood to clot.
Keep an eye out for these signs and symptoms:
There are things that can be done to prevent minor bruising:
Once a bruise has formed, however, not much can be done to treat it. If it is especially sore ice can be applied. If it is on a limb, raising it may help to reduce the soreness.
If unexplained bruises continually appear on the senior, visit the doctor and ask them to examine the bruises. Ask the doctor to have a conversation with the senior and assess if someone in the home is hitting them. These are reportable events and the senior should be protected immediately if abuse is causing the bruises.