Bruising in the elderly is quite common. The tricky part is identifying bruises, understanding their cause and preventing them. Here are some suggestions that can serve as a guide.
Bruising in the elderly is caused when the small blood vessels near the skin’s surface are broken. The blood leaks out of the vessels and appears as a black-and-blue mark on the skin. As the body reabsorbs the blood, the mark disappears. The harder the blow to the surface, the more massive 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 in the elderly. 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.
Bruising in the elderly
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 in the elderly. A doctor can also check blood platelet levels or check the blood’s ability to clot.
Sometimes bruising in the elderly 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:
- Frequent, large bruises begin to appear on the senior’s trunk, back or face, or seem to develop for no known reasons
- Bruises begin to appear suddenly, especially after taking a new medication
Some things can be done to prevent minor bruising:
- Eliminate household clutter
- Remove throw rugs that could cause trips and falls that result in bruising
- Improve lighting in the home so that the senior can easily find their way without tripping
Not much can be done to treat a bruise once it has formed. If it is unusually 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, first evaluate safety using a home safety checklist and then visit the doctor and ask them to examine the injuries. 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 if abuse is causing the bruising in the elderly.