Why is bruising easier the older you get?

Jan 26, 2012, 8:42 a.m.

As we age we bruise easily. Unlike wrinkles, the symphony of large back and blue marks are usually unexpected and unwelcome. "To add insult to injury," takes on a whole new meaning.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three main reasons bruising becomes easier as we age. These are:

  1. Thinning skin
  2. Aging capillaries
  3. Bruising and age can be related to taking certain medications

UV-light exposure, toxins, smog and cigarette smoke can all contribute to free radical damage and skin aging. Damage occurs to younger skin, too, but as we age the body's ability to regenerate and repair cellular damage decreases. One of the results is thinner skin that is prone to both tearing and bruising. The loss of the fatty cells in the lower dermis and a reduction in both collagen and elastin are responsible for wrinkles and thinning, fragile skin.

Also located in the dermis are the sweat glands, nerve cells and blood vessels. A bruise is caused when the blood vessels are broken below the surface of the skin. The blood spreads out under the skin and it appears as a black and blue bruise. Older adults bruise easily because the cellular structure is weaker. Moreover, the body takes longer to absorb the blood so the bruise lasts for a longer period of time.

In addition to thinning skin and fragile blood vessels, many older Americans are also taking blood-thinning medications. According to the Mayo Clinic, blood thinning medications can make bruising easier. Some of the medications that are known to thin the blood are aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), and warfarin (Coumadin). Rather than stop these medications to prevent bruising talk to your doctor.

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