What is easy bruising?
Easy bruising is the frequent appearance of purple, brown or red discolorations on your skin. Skin bruising from bumps, sprains, bites or trauma is normal and indicates that underlying blood vessels are broken or bleeding. This bleeding can take the form of pinpoint dots (petechiae), larger, flat areas (purpura), or broad areas of bruising (ecchymosis). Bruising can be a concern when it is not related to injury or it seems disproportionate to the injury or trauma that occurred.
Easy bruising can be symptomatic of medical conditions including autoimmune disorders, vitamin deficiencies, leukemia and other cancers, disorders of blood vessels and surrounding tissues, and blood clotting disorders. Clotting disorders are characterized by a failure of the blood to properly clot, indicating the possibility of absent or nonfunctional blood coagulation factors (substances in the blood that work together to stop bleeding). This can result in heavy or uncontrollable bleeding after injuries or trauma. Clotting disorders can be hereditary or due to medications, vitamin deficiency, or liver disease.
Platelet abnormalities can also cause easy bruising. Platelets (small fragments of cells that are present in the bloodstream) are another necessary component for blood clotting to occur. An abnormally low number of platelets is called thrombocytopenia. A number of conditions are known to cause thrombocytopenia, including any disorders affecting the site of platelet production (the bone marrow), cancer, aplastic anemia, liver disease, myelodysplasia (blood cell disorders), and malnutrition.
Easy bruising that persists could be indicative of a serious problem. Seek prompt medical care if you experience sudden bruising without explanation or if your bruising is persistent or causes you concern.
What other symptoms might occur with easy bruising?
Bruising may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.
Symptoms related to bleeding that may occur along with easy bruising
Bruising may accompany other symptoms related to bleeding including:
Other symptoms that may occur along with easy bruising
Easy bruising may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:
Hyperflexible joints (seen in connective tissue disorders)
Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Weakness (loss of strength)
Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition
In some cases, bruising may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have bruising along with any of the following symptoms:
What causes easy bruising?
Situations that are known to cause bruising include allergic reactions, trauma, and injury. Bruising can be symptomatic of medical conditions, including autoimmune disorders; clotting disorders, such as thrombocytopenia; and medications, including those that inhibit clotting or platelet formation.
Frequent and easy bruising can also be attributed to bleeding disorders in which your blood fails to clot properly. These disorders are caused by a deficiency in coagulation factors (substances in the blood that act together to stop bleeding) and can result in heavy or uncontrollable bleeding after injuries or trauma. They can be hereditary or due to medications, vitamin deficiency, or liver disease.
Medical causes of easy bruising
Easy bruising may be caused by medical conditions including:
Aplastic anemia (bone marrow disorder)
Cirrhosis (liver scarring)
Clotting disorders, such as hemophilia or von Willebrand’s disease (hereditary disorders of blood clotting)
Henoch-Schonlein purpura (disease that produces bleeding and kidney or intestinal problems)
Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (type of bruising without a known cause)
Leukemia (cancer of the blood or bone marrow)
Malnutrition, including vitamin deficiencies
Myelodysplasia (disorders of blood cell formation)
Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)
Thrombocytopenia (abnormally low number of platelets)
Treatment-related causes of easy bruising
Easy bruising can also be caused by medical treatments including:
Antibiotics (penicillin, cephalosporins)
Anticoagulants, such as warfarin (Coumadin) or heparin
Antiplatelet medications such as clopidogrel (Plavix)
Aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve)
Serious or life-threatening causes of easy bruising
In some cases, easy bruising may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:
Aortic dissection (seen in Marfan’s syndrome)
Aplastic anemia (bone marrow disorder)
Leukemia (cancer in the bone marrow)
Questions for diagnosing the cause of easy bruising
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your easy bruising including:
Were you recently in an accident or have you recently experienced trauma?
Are you experiencing other symptoms? Is the bruising accompanied by pain or swelling?
What medications are you taking?
Have you undergone radiation or chemotherapy?
Have you always bruised easily?
Do you or a family member have a history of bleeding or clotting disorders?
Did the bruising start after a surgical procedure?
What are the potential complications of easy bruising?
Because easy bruising can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:
Anemia (low red blood cell count)
Intracranial bleeding or hemorrhage
Spread of cancer