In our dermatology clinics at Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands, easy bruising & thin skin are common issues we hear about from our patients. As we age, these changes are seen more often. Most of the cases we see are in individuals over 50 to 60 years of age. Because this is so common, we wanted to prepare this information with details about why easy bruising & thin skin occurs, as well as treatment for thin skin and easy bruising.
Easy Bruising & Thin Skin in Older Adults: Common Problems and Treatment Options
Because bruising more easily can be a sign of other more concerning things in rare cases, we first want to talk with you about what is considered the norm. In other words, what are the normal circumstances where we do not have to worry about an underlying, undiagnosed medical condition when patients develop fragile skin and/or easy bruising?
For starters, the most common area we see the problem is on the forearms. In some cases, we may also see it on the upper arms, the legs, and even more rarely on the upper chest or neck. Usually the bruising develops very gradually, where a person will initially start to have some easy bruising here and there, with them seeing much more bruising over months or years.
It’s worth pointing out that there are some other changes that patients may notice in addition to the bruising and fragile skin. Are the rings you wear on your fingers fitting more loosely or even sliding off? This is a commonly associated issue. The reason for this will make more sense with what we’ll discuss further on in this article.
Folks will also notice that they seem to develop bruising spontaneously, where they don’t remember specifically injuring an area and yet a bruise develops. This is because when younger, our skin is much more resilient so that later in life very minor bumps and contusions cause more remarkable bruising and bleeding or tears in the skin.
Now, why exactly does this occur in the first place? What is it about being “older” that makes us this way?
First and foremost, as the skin ages, the overall amount of a substance in the skin called connective tissue declines. Connective tissue fibers give the skin:
- structure (shape and definition)
- elasticity (ability to stretch and spring back)
- allow the skin to hold more water
These fibers also form a coat of insulation surrounding and protecting our blood vessels. The loss of connective tissue with aging makes the skin more susceptible to minor injuries.
What causes easy bruising?
Exposure to the Sun
On top of all that, sun exposure & sun damage further causes these fibers to degrade. Therefore, the condition is especially worse in sun-exposed areas such as the forearms. This loss of structure is also what causes the problem with wearing rings that we already discussed. As the skin thins due to connective tissue loss, rings may no longer fit as they once did.
Next, many older adults take prescription blood thinner medications, also known as anticoagulants. One side effect of blood thinning medications is that it can further increase the tendency toward bruising. Over the last 20 years, the number of blood clotting prevention medications that are prescribed has skyrocketed. At the time of the writing of this report in 2019, the common anticoagulants being prescribed include:
- Coumadin (warfarin)
- Plavix (clopidogrel)
- Pradaxa (dabigatran)
- Eliquis (apixaban)
- Lovenox (enoxaparin)
- Xarelto (rivaroxaban)
- Fragmin (dalteparin)
Vitamin E, fish oil, ibuprofen (Advil), Naprosyn (Alene), and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) can also thin the blood and make this problem worse.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia can also contribute to easy bruising. The lack of iron affects the body’s ability to produce enough healthy red blood cells, leading to weakened blood vessels. This can make the skin more prone to bruising even with minor trauma. Treating the underlying iron deficiency can help alleviate the frequency and severity of bruising.
Treatment for Thin Skin and Bruising
It is nearly impossible to reverse the effects of aging and ultraviolet light on the skin, but there are some steps you can take to help the issues you’re experiencing.
First, start to protect yourself more aggressively from the sun and other sources of UV light (tanning beds, etc.) right now! More UV light means more thinned skin and more issues. As always, apply sunscreen when outside during peak hours.
Next, apply a thick moisturizer cream to your skin twice a day. At Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands, we most often recommend Vanicream or CeraVe cream.
The best dermatologists in Omaha & Council Bluffs, know how moisturizer increases the ability of our skin to carry moisture. More moisture means more padding and protection for our skin.
Next, be especially cautious and mindful with what you do. Some physical activities carry with them greater risk of minor injury. The older you are, the more susceptible your skin is to bruising and tearing with minor injuries. Consider wearing protective gloves or long sleeves with more padding (like a sweatshirt) for added protection.
Finally, some patients find that homeopathic Arnica containing moisturizers may help bruises to fade more quickly.
There is one final thing we need to touch on for you. Easy bruising can rarely be a sign of underlying serious problems. If your circumstances don’t seem to fit the circumstances we have described, you should talk to your doctor for a check-up. Also, if you are having any of the following, consult your general practitioner for medical advice:
- bleeding gums
- nose bleeds
- night sweats
- unexplained weight loss
- easy bruising in unusual areas such as your face, hands, and arms.
Remember, taking care of your aging skin and addressing easy bruising requires a comprehensive approach that includes regular skincare, sun protection, a balanced diet, and appropriate medical guidance.
Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands | Best Dermatologist Omaha & Council Bluffs, IA | Board Certified Dermatologists
We understand that the issue with easy bruising & thin skin can be both distressing and frustrating. If the information we presented doesn’t help you by reducing your worry and giving you a game plan for your skin, consider seeing us in a consultation at any of our Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands clinics in Omaha, Council Bluffs, or surrounding communities. For any information or to make an appointment please contact us today.