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HEALTH AND FITNESS

What causes bruising in the elderly?

As we age, we tend to bruise more easily and bruises last longer. In this article, we will discuss the reasons for easy bruising, possible causes, and ways to reduce it.

February 06, 2024

Elderly with skin discolouration due to bruises

Many older adults find that they bruise more easily as they get older, with bruises tending to lead to a lot of skin discolouration. The visible signs of bruising can also last longer than they might have done when they were younger. Any little tap or knock can lead to bruising in the elderly, along with more potentially serious incidents, such as falls.

In this article, we look at why older people seem to bruise easily, what kinds of things might cause bruising and what can be done to help minimise this.

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Why do older adults bruise easily?

As we age, our skin becomes naturally thinner and less resilient over time. Skin cells reproduce more slowly than when younger, so the skin’s ability to heal quickly is also reduced. Older people also tend to have fewer layers of protective fat under the skin. Blood vessels are close to the surface and with less protection in older skin, it makes the elderly more prone to bruising than most younger adults.

Some medications can also make an older individual more likely to bruise. For example, taking blood thinners can mean that bruising after a small knock looks worse than expected and lasts longer.


What causes purple bruising in the elderly?

One of the things that many older people and their loved ones find concerning with bruising is that the skin discolouration and tenderness in the affected area can seem to be much worse than expected and can last for longer. Purple or greenish bruising can look especially worrying. In the majority of cases, some purple bruising in the elderly is not a sign of anything serious, but medical advice should be taken if you are worried or if bruises don’t fade after a couple of weeks.

Some of the common causes of purple bruising in the elderly can include:

  • Small bumps or knocks, often on arms, hands or legs, just from daily life and everyday activities
  • Having had a fall or an accident
  • Developing bruises after medical procedures, e.g. having blood taken or having an IV fitted
  • Developing small bruises after being assisted in daily living activities, e.g. bathing and dressing.


Is elderly bruising a sign of underlying health conditions?

Bruised hand of an elderly

While some bruising in older people is to be expected after a fall, accident or bump or some of the other reasons already mentioned, in some cases, bruising can be a sign that there might be something else going on. Some examples of this could include:


Changes to balance or frailty

If an older adult is repeatedly knocking or bumping themselves when moving around the home or when outside, it could potentially be a sign that they are developing balance issues or are becoming frailer. This can significantly increase the risks of a fall and could indicate other health conditions are developing or worsening.


Potential nutrient deficiency

If an older adult is deficient in some nutrients, it can make them more prone to bruising. For example, a lack of vitamin C or iron could cause blood vessels to weaken, making bruising more evident. Being deficient in these nutrients can also have other health implications in the elderly, so it’s important to seek advice from a medical professional if you’re concerned.


Chronic conditions

Some chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney issues or liver disease, along with the treatment and management of them, can affect blood and the way it clots, which can sometimes mean bruising more easily.

As always, if you’re worried about unexplained bruising in yourself or an elderly loved one, or if bruises are especially painful or don’t go away after a couple of weeks, speaking to a GP is advised.


How to treat bruising in the elderly

There is no real cure for bruising, but the signs of it can sometimes be minimised if quick action is taken after an accident. Applying a cool compress to the area (with a barrier, such as a tea towel, between the cold compress and the skin) for around 20 minutes at a time, several times during the 48 hours following the injury, can help to minimise bruising.

If the location of the injury makes this possible, elevating it above the heart can also help to minimise bruising, as the blood will be drawn away from the affected area by gravity somewhat.

After a few days, it can sometimes help to speed up the healing process to use a warm compress on the area, as this can help improve the circulation of blood.

You can also take a look at our article on how to reduce bruising after a fall for more tips.


How to prevent bruising in older adults

There are various things that can be done to help prevent bruising from occurring in the first place for older adults. These include:

  • Using sun protection when outdoors, to help prevent the sun from damaging or weakening the skin
  • Using moisturiser regularly to help the skin maintain moisture levels and elasticity
  • Taking steps to eliminate potential trip or fall hazards from the home
  • Wearing gloves when gardening or doing manual tasks around the home
  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet, and taking vitamin and mineral supplements if recommended by a medical professional.

Elderly woman wearing gloves while gardening

Additional peace of mind about potential accidents or injuries

If you, or an elderly loved one, live independently in later life, there may be some concerns about what might happen if there is a fall or an injury due to an accident. Or perhaps your older relative or friend has experienced bruising after an incident at home or when out and about and you’re worried it could happen again.

One solution that can bring real peace of mind is a personal alarm system from TakingCare. A single press of the alert button will contact our Emergency Resolution Team, so that the nominated contacts can be called, or emergency help can be arranged if that is needed. Our alarms have a variety of different features so that there is a system suited to every kind of situation and lifestyle.

Call our team on 0800 085 7371 to talk through the options and you can also view our full range of alarms here.

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

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Ways to support independent living

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure


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