Bruising or ecchymosis is caused by burst capillaries beneath the skin’s surface, resulting in trapped blood and discoloration. While it can happen to anyone at any age, older adults are more likely to develop bruises. Another cause is exercise, especially during weight training, where repetitive movements can cause minor bruising. In these cases, resting, hydration, and time help the injury to heal on its own. However, sometimes unexplained, random bruising is due to serious conditions that require in-depth diagnosis and specialized treatment.
Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals to treat the rapid growth and division of cells that cause cancer. The solution works its way throughout the body and doesn’t discriminate in what it affects, including the healthy parts. As a result, it can lower blood platelet count, reducing the body’s ability to clot. People undergoing chemo are advised to stop taking certain medicines, such as over-the-counter painkillers that thin the blood. They are also warned to prevent bleeding by moisturizing chapped skin and using softer toothbrushes.
Cushing syndrome occurs when there is excess cortisol in the body. This can cause thinning skin that is easy to bruise. With the weight gain that comes with the disease, already thin skin can be further weakened, causing hemorrhages. If diagnosed properly, Cushing syndrome is curable. Doctors must biopsy and remove the tumors that cause the condition. Steroid medicine that treats diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or asthma is one cause that presents more of a challenge.
While diabetes can affect blood sugar throughout the body, it also disrupts circulation. Too much glucose in the blood damages nerves and weakens capillary walls, resulting in random bruising, particularly in the feet. The best way to deal with this is to control blood sugar and take care of foot problems by checking for bruising and ulcers daily.
Another genetic disorder that ican cause random bruising is Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or EDS. EDS weakens the connective tissues of skin, bones, and other organs, as well as blood vessels and muscles, leaving them unstable and loose. As a result of this fragility, extensive bruising and spontaneous ruptures that cause severe internal bleeding are risks in all subtypes of the disease. Doctors must monitor clotting factors and platelets in people with EDS. Treatments include surgery and pain-relieving drugs.
Hemophilia is a genetic disorder that prevents the blood from clotting. The reduction or absence of one of the clotting factors may result in visible or invisible bruising. Something as benign as bumping against a wall could lead to bruising and prolonged internal bleeding. Treating the disorder depends on which clotting factor is missing. Those with hemophilia A, the most common form of the disease, need infusions of antihemophilic globulin, while those with hemophilia B need plasma thromboplastin component drips or injections.
Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin lymphomas produce lymphocytes that keep growing and dividing. In some cases, overpopulation of white blood cells destroys red blood cells, and in others, the condition affects bone marrow functionality. One way to alleviate symptoms is with stem cell or bone marrow transplants.
Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP)
A variation of thrombocytopenic purpura, ITP is characterized by low platelet counts without any other evidence of the disease and normal bone marrow. Low platelet levels make it more difficult for blood to clot, which causes bruising with the slightest injury, or purpura. Because the exact cause of ITP is unknown, some medical professionals suspect it may be linked to bacterial or viral infections. Doctors can treat chronic ITP with medications to boost platelet count or a splenectomy.
Thrombophilia is an inherited disorder that’s the opposite of hemophilia. Instead of an inability to clot, which causes excess bleeding, people with this disease experience hypercoagulation or excessive clotting. As with chemotherapy treatment, the use of anticoagulants to treat thrombophilia causes bruising. Depending on the dosage of anticoagulants and the severity of the disorder, patients may need to change certain aspects of their lifestyle to compensate.
Deficiency in certain vitamins for a prolonged period may cause random bruising. Vitamin K is important for clotting, and low levels may result in bruising. Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is essential in the creation of skin and blood vessels. A deficiency makes vessels more prone to breakage. Once a doctor has diagnosed a specific deficiency, she may prescribe special vitamin formations that are not available over the counter.
von Willebrand Disease
Many with von Willebrand disease inherit it through a faulty gene from their parents, while others acquire it as a secondary condition without a parental connection. The usual cause is low levels of von Willebrand factor, a protein that helps platelets stick together properly. Additional causes include reduced amounts of factor VIII, which typically stimulates clotting. Treatment depends on the subtype of the disease and includes concentrated doses of those clotting factors and the use of a synthetic hormone to control bleeding.