Knock-on effect: Why do some people bruise so easily?
Do you bruise like a peach? You’re not alone. Experts explain what causes bruises, how they heal and why they might differ from person to person.
As common as a bumped knee or shin to a coffee table, bruising is a totally normal occurrence.
In most cases, it’s a matter of waiting for the body to heal itself (and vowing to steer clear of that particularly pointy table).
But it’s also important to be across the different types of bruising, the healing process and what it means for your body.
What causes bruising?
After an impact, tiny blood vessels (called microcapillaries) can be left leaking and damaged, which causes a bruise.
But it’s no big deal for your body, which sends cells to repair, explains naturopath Katherine Maslen.
“Impact causes blood to leak out of damaged walls and leave a bruise, and bruises heal by recruiting cells to clean up the debris and dead blood cells,” Katherine, the founder of Shift Clinics, says.
Otherwise known as contusions, bruises can occur almost anywhere in the body and are categorised as one of three types.
“There are three broad categories of bruises: subcutaneous (just beneath the skin), intramuscular (within the underlying muscle), and periosteal (affecting the bone itself),” CEO of Cosmetique Dr Vivek Eranki says.
“Virtually any part of your body can display a bruise if it’s given enough pressure, and places with less cushion such as shins and forearms might show them off more.”
Dr Eranki says it’s also possible to bruise a bone.
“Bone bruising happens when the force is strong enough to harm the surface of the bone,” he says.
“It’s a bit like a deeper, hidden bruise that isn’t visible on the skin but can be quite sensitive.”
How long do bruises last?
According to Dr Eranki, a bruise will often hang around for two weeks.
“Bruises are temporary and typically fade within two weeks,” he says.
This healing time can vary depending on where a bruise is located.
“Bruises on legs often take longer to heal because of the pressure from walking and standing,” Dr Eranki says.
“Also, how hard you were hit plays a part, and a bigger hit can mean a bigger bruise that takes more time to fade.”
Why do I bruise so easily?
Some are more prone to bruising than others.
“Some people, particularly women, bruise more as they get older and their skin gets thinner,” Dr Eranki says.
“If you’ve got family members who bruise easily, it might be a genetic thing you’ve inherited too.”
It can also come down to medications you’re taking, as Dr Eranki explains those with blood thinning qualities can affect healing.
“Certain medications or supplements can slow down healing because they thin your blood, making it harder to repair the bruised area,” he says.
Iron deficiency can also cause bruising easily, as Katherine says it can affect the production of bruise-healing platelets.
“Platelets are involved in blood clotting, so a reduction in levels can lead to increased bruising,” she says.
How do I get rid of bruises?
Often, the body will take care of bruising and heal on its own.
“A bruise fades away as your body works to clear the leaked blood from the trauma,” Dr Eranki says.
“Helping your body along can be simple: a bit of ice initially, then gentle heat later on, along with elevation and rest can do wonders.”
And bruise prevention? Keep your general health in check to help prevent bruising and promote future healing.
“Bruises heal by recruiting cells to clean up the debris and dead blood cells, so if bruises are healing slowly, it can indicate issues with blood flow to the area or a lack of the nutrition required to manufacture the cells needed to clean up the debris,” Katherine says.
“Taking vitamin C and zinc can support tissue healing.”
If bruising becomes abnormal or unexplained it might link to underlying health conditions – in these cases Dr Eranki recommends a check-up with your doctor.
“It’s not a call for immediate concern, but it is your cue to have a word with your healthcare provider, to ensure everything is as it should be,” he says.
More on common ailments:
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- Glandular fever: ‘I was going to bed at 6pm’
- Migraines 101: Why they are more than just a headache
Written by Hayley Hinze.