Preventing Bruises in Seniors

Mike Olmos by Mike Olmos | Licensed since 2010
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This article was updated on: 09/15/2018

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If you’re a caretaker, you might notice occasional bruises on an elderly person’s skin. If you’re a senior, you might find you bruise easily, according to the National Institutes of Health.

What are bruises in seniors and others?

Bruises form when small blood vessels break near the skin – for example, because of an injury, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) publication Medline Plus. They can appear in several colors, from red to black and blue, through green and yellow, as the bruise heals. Bruises in seniors (and others) can come with pain and swelling.

Bruises in seniors might take longer to heal than when they occur in younger people, notes the National Institute on Aging. Seniors bruise may more easily than younger people as well. Your skin generally becomes thinner as you get older because it loses some of the protective layer of fat that can help shield you from bumps and bruises, according to the Mayo Clinic. Women sometimes bruise more easily than men.

Bruises in seniors can last for up to several months, reports the NIH, but most fade after a couple of weeks.

Bruises in seniors: what causes them?

Generally, bruises can form when something hits part of your body, such as an arm or leg, fairly hard – or when part your body hits something hard (like when you stub a toe). Blood vessels break below the surface of the skin. Bruises in seniors (and others) can happen in the skin, muscle, or bone, reports the NIH, with bone bruises being the most severe and painful.

But medications can sometimes cause bruising easily in seniors, according to the Mayo Clinic. For example, certain medications act as blood thinners, and may be used to help prevent stroke or certain heart conditions. However, they may also cause you to bruise more easily, since they affect the blood’s ability to clot (stop bleeding), according to the Department of Health & Human Services.

Prescription drugs known as corticosteroids, which your doctor might prescribe for conditions such as asthma, allergies, or eczema – might also make you bruise more easily, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Can you prevent bruises in seniors?

The Mayo Clinic lists possible ways to prevent bruises that are more or less the same as steps to prevent falling. You might also ask your doctor if any of your prescription medications might cause easy bruising, or might make you dizzy or sleepy and more likely to fall.

How do you treat bruises in seniors?

There might not be a lot you can do to treat bruises, notes the Mayo Clinic. You might try keeping the body part up high (for example, put your legs up if a leg is bruised). Putting ice on the bruise may also help.

When might you want to see a doctor about bruising?

If your bruise hurts a great deal, is very swollen, or gets infected, or if you feel extreme pressure in the bruised area, see a doctor right away, the National Institutes of Health publication Medline Plus advises.

If you bruise very easily (without an obvious cause) or frequently, the Mayo Clinic suggests you see your doctor.

Bruises in seniors might mean abuse

If you notice bruises on your loved one, you might want to find out whether she or he is being abused. Learn more at the National Center for Elder Abuse website, which lists state agencies that can help.

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