Look out for bruise-causing medications and supplements, avoid slips and falls, and make sure bruising isn't a sign of a more serious condition
As we get older, we often bruise more easily. This occurs for a variety of reasons and usually isn't a cause for alarm. However, if bruising is significant or persistent it could be related to a more serious condition. Keep reading to understand the causes of bruising among seniors and the best ways to treat and prevent it.
Why is bruising so common in the elderly?
Bruises usually form when small blood vessels near the skin are broken due to injury. Blood, leaking out of the vessels, is the cause of the common black or blue marks on a person's skin. As people age, their skin loses its natural thickness, and the fatty layer which helps protect a person's blood vessels is gradually reduced. Additionally, as older people are more susceptible to falls due to reduced balance and coordination, they may experience more injuries that commonly result in bruising.
Bruises among senior citizens are much more common on the extremities than on the torso. One study of elderly adults showed that 90% of bruises occurred on the arms and legs. Therefore, if there is bruising on the torso, it could potentially be a sign of a more serious problem.
When is bruising serious?
Bruising is usually not a problem in itself – however, it may be the symptom of a serious underlying condition. It's a good idea to consult with a doctor if an elderly individual has very large, frequent bruises, if the bruises have occurred after starting a new medication, if the bruises develop for unknown reasons, or if the patient has a family history of easy bruising or bleeding.
One possible reason for these abnormal bruises is a blood platelet or blood clotting issue – and a doctor may decide to do tests in order to determine if one of these problems is responsible.
Additionally, if a senior has no underlying medical reason for the bruising, and they display some of the signs of Alzheimer's or dementia, they may be experiencing falls, scrapes, or stumbles and not remembering them.
Could medications and supplements make bruising worse?
There are a variety of medications and supplements that can potentially cause or worsen bruising among senior citizens. For example, aspirin, anticoagulants, and antiplatelet medications reduce blood's ability to clot, which can make bruising much easier. Additionally, popular supplements, including fish oil and gingko biloba, also are known to have anticoagulant effects.
Corticosteroids, whether taken orally, topically, or by injection, can also be implicit in bruising, as they cause thinning of the skin.
While it's important to understand that these substances may contribute to bruising, a senior loved one should not stop taking any medication prescribed or recommended by a doctor without consulting them first. Rapid discontinuation of a vital medication may result in more serious health problems – and depending on the cause of the bruising, it may not reduce it, either.
How can bruises be treated and prevented?
Bruises may take time to heal on their own, especially for seniors. Elevating the area, applying ice, compression, light massage, and natural remedies like arnica may help the bruise go away faster.
If a doctor advises it, a senior can consider discontinuing or replacing any medications or supplements that may cause or exacerbate bruising. Individuals may also consider putting rugs with rubber liners or soft padded carpets on top of hardwood or tile flooring to soften the blow in the case of a fall. One of the simplest ways to prevent bruising is to clean up household clutter and rearrange furniture to reduce the chance of slips, falls, and scrapes.
FirstLantic has developed a Fall Prevention Program to lower this risk for elderly patients. Our clinicians create a unique plan that spots environmental hazards, such as poor lighting or unsafe walkways, reviews current medications that may exacerbate the risk of a fall, and assesses an individual's current need for mobility equipment, like wheelchairs or walkers. We also provide specific recommendations on how to make your loved one safer that may include strength and balance exercises, occupational therapy, the installation of railings or grab bars, or specific services from a home health aide.
If your elderly loved one is experiencing falls or other conditions that may be helped with senior home healthcare, give FirstLantic a call at 877-618-3624 or fill out our online contact form to learn more about our home health aide services in South Florida. We have been providing the highest level of service and attention to clients in Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Martin Counties since 2000.