Sitting across from my friend Liz, I couldn’t help but notice a huge bruise on her shin. Not wanting to seem impolite, I didn’t ask her if she tripped over a coffee table or banged into a drawer. Instead, I wondered why it seems women get more bruises then men.
A bruise can occur after a blow or impact which causes the small blood vessels near the surface of the skin to break and leak blood into the surrounding tissue. Bruises last about two weeks and first start out as a red purple mark. In a couple of days, the bruise deepens in color possibly turning black/purple. By day 5-10 the bruise changes to greenish/yellow then in days 10-14 it fades to a light brown as the cells are reabsorbed by the body.
Women do bruise more easily than men because their skin is thinner and because the structure and layout of the blood vessels and fat is different in women’s skin. Men have a thicker denser collagen layer so blood vessels are held more securely and their fat layer is deeper. Women tend to bruises more easily on thighs, buttocks and upper arms.
Seniors also have a tendency to bruise more easily. As we age our skin becomes thinner and there is less fat to cushion injuries. Sun damage also will have taken a toll over the years and contributes to thinned skin and fragility of the blood vessels.
Medication and certain supplements can cause bruising. Aspirin and Coumadin, both often used “to thin” someone’s blood are a common cause of bruising. Surprisingly, ibuprofen and other anti-imflammatories also can cause a slowed clotting response in the blood. Steroids both topical and oral can contribute to bruising because they cause skin thinning. Care should be taken when taking supplements such as ginkgo biloba and fish oil as both have blood thinning properties.
What to do about a bruise:
1. Ice for up to 20 minutes and/or put firm pressure to slow down the flow of blood. Ice will also to decrease pain and swelling in the surrounding tissue.
2. Diet-supplements: Taking increased doses of vitamin C is thought to help make blood vessels less fragile.