As I’ve gone through the menopausal transition, I’ve noticed some interesting changes starting to emerge. One example - I’ve seen an increased number of bruises show up on my limbs and I’m not even sure about what I did to cause them.
It turns out I’m not alone. As people age, they often start bruising easily from minor injuries, especially to the forearms, hands, legs and feet. That’s because aging skin loses some of its protective fatty layer and collagen as we age, thus becoming thinner. Furthermore, if you worshipped the sun when you were younger, the thinning of the skin can happen much faster. And if that’s not enough, the aging process weakens tissues that support capillaries end up becoming more fragile and prone to bleeding. It can take only a slight bump that you€™re not even aware of to cause a bruise.
As we age and those capillaries become even more fragile, you’ll start seeing dark purple bruises on the hands and forearms. They can fade over time, but may leave some discoloration. And women are more prone to bruising. The Yale Medical Group points out that these bruises often happen on the thighs, buttocks and upper arms.
And if that’s not enough, going through menopause also can cause you to bruise. Dr. Jessica Wu, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles, CA, points out that a woman’s ovaries slowly produce less estrogen and progesterone bonce a woman reaches the ages of 40-55. As these levels fall, the skin starts producing less collagen. "In fact, studies have shown that the skin loses 30 percent of its collagen with the first five years after menopause," Dr. Wu’s website states. "This shows up as wrinkles, thin skin and easy bruising."
The Yale Medical Group notes that most bruises are not a cause for concern. However, if you see a lot of increased bruising, you may want to talk to your doctor to make sure that they are not a signal of something more serious or if there is an issue in relation to medications you’re taking. Still, the Mayo Clinic’s Health Letter notes that if you don’t have a personal or family history of abnormal bleeding, no underlying blood orders and no associated bleeding elsewhere, your tendency to bruise easily is probably more of a cosmetic concern.
So what can you do to lower your risk of bruising (other than wearing a padded suit)? Here are some suggestions:
- Arnica montana - According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, arnica montana has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s. It has been used to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation and heal wounds, especially bruises and sprains. You should only use this herb topically since it can have serious side effects when taken orally.
- Bromelein - This substance is a mixture of enzymes that digest protein. They are found in pineapples, which have been used for centuries to reduce inflammation as well as to treat indigestion. The University of Maryland Medical Center points out that studies have shown mixed results, but bromelein is believed to reduce bruising and healing time.
- Vitamin C - Dr. Andrew Weil recommends taking 200 mg of this vitamin daily to ease bruising.
- Bilberry extract - Dr. Weil also points out that this natural treatment has potent antioxidants that may reduce or eliminate bruising through stabilizing the collagen. This extra also is believed to increase intercellular vitamin C levels and strengthen capillaries.
- Tincture of arnica or arnica gel - Rubbing this onto the bruise may help. This substance comes from a daisy plant that grows in the Rocky Mountains.
- Pycnogenol - This supplement, which is a potent antioxidant that is made from pine tree bark, can strengthen capillaries, arteries and veins.
- Avoid specific foods (green tea, red wine) that make blood vessels fragile and, thus, cause easy bruising.
- Eat foods with vitamin K that help blood to be more viscous and less likely to leak from blood vessels. According to Dr. Anil Shah, a cosmetic surgeon in Chicago, these foods include cabbage, spinach, broccoli and kale.
- Eat papaya, which has papain that is believed to help break up the dead material that is responsible for bruising.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Mayo Clinic Health Letter. (December 2012). Second opinion.
University of Maryland Medical Center. (2011). Arnica.
University of Maryland Medical Center. (2011). Bromelain.
Shah, A. (nd.). Avoiding and treating bruising.
Weil, A. (2013). Condition care guide: Bruises.
Wu, J. (nd). Menopause and your skin.
Yale Medical Group. (2007). Bruises and blood spots under the skin.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.