Elderly Bruised Skin: What Causes It and How to Prevent It

Bruises can be a symptom of a larger issue. Elderly bruised skin comes with unique risks. Learn how to identify and treat this issue in your loved ones.

Skin bruising is common in older adults due to their advanced age.

They won’t always be signs of injury but rather a common side effect of growing old. However, some bruises are different and may be symptoms of specific health issues.

We’ll detail why your elderly loved one may be experiencing easy bruising and what you can do about it.

An Overview of Elderly Thin Skin Bruising

Aging skin is prone to easy bruising. An older adult’s skin will have a reduced capacity to repair itself.

This will be compounded by a lack of collagen, flexibility, and drier and generally weaker skin. All of these issues will lead to skin bruising more easily.

A bruise will clear when given enough time as the body’s tissues slowly reabsorb the lost blood. Note that it will often take longer in older adults.

What Are the Main Causes of Elderly Skin Bruising?

With age comes more delicate skin. Skin becomes thinner and also loses its protective fat with time.

This fat is vital for protecting an older adult’s blood vessels. Without it, blood vessels are more likely to burst.

This skin thinning and loss of protective fat will lead to more consistent bruising.

Too much sun exposure and other vitamin deficiencies are also symptoms that lead to easier bruising.

Vitamin C, in particular, promotes collagen production in the body, so not getting enough will lead to thinner skin.

Your loved one may have some vitamin deficiencies that are causing bruises. Ask their doctor if any medications can help them avoid further skin damage.

Elderly Skin Bruising and Bleeding

An elderly adult’s skin is prone to bruising because the blood vessels underneath the skin are no longer cushioned by fat.

When a blood vessel bursts, the blood leaks out but doesn’t exit the skin, resulting in a bruise.

A bruise is essentially internal bleeding, but the cause may be from medicines like blood thinners.

This increased risk of skin tears comes with an equal risk of abnormal bleeding. Minor bumps and trips can result in much more serious injuries.

Elderly Bruising on the Legs and Arms

If the bruised area is around their limbs, this will often not require intervention.

Concerned family members may ask their doctor to be certain, but bruising around the limbs is common in the elderly.

Senior citizens who are old enough will have difficulty fulfilling their regular functions.

Your loved ones who need assistance with cleaning and dressing will often have a few bruises around their legs and arms.

This will cause bruising even if your loved one has careful caregivers. Other health conditions like weight may also lead to an increase in bruises.

If your loved ones are overweight, their skin will be stretched thinner over their bodies, further stressing their skin.

What Causes Unexplained Bruising in the Elderly?

Sudden and unexplained bruises may be symptoms of different health problems.

Medical Conditions

Older adults with cirrhosis may bruise easily. Since the liver aids in platelet production, any disease affecting it will result in quicker bruising.

Platelets are the body’s first responders to wounds and will form blood clots in broken blood vessels.

The liver disease will reduce the body’s ability to produce platelets, meaning more bruises.


Certain medications like blood thinners will hinder the blood’s ability to form clots. This will cause aging skin to bruise easily.

Consult a doctor to see if your loved one’s medications may be the underlying condition behind their bruises.

Lack of Movement

Lack of movement may also cause older adults bruises. Your loved one’s skin may sport large bruises after long inactivity.

To avoid this, family members and caregivers should carefully move their wards regularly during the day to avoid this bruising.

Elderly Skin Bruising Treatment

Elderly bruised skin treatment

Bruises may also lead to skin tears and swelling. Here’s how to treat them in older adults:

Treating Bruises

If treating an older adult’s injury, ensure there’s a barrier like a clean towel over their skin first.

Next, apply ice or a cold compress like a pack of frozen food over the cloth, then replace it with a warm compress to speed healing up.

Large bruises on the feet or legs will clear up faster if the affected limb is kept elevated. This will help with discomfort and drain fluids away from the bruised area.

Treating Skin Tears

A small skin tear will make for a quick treatment. Clean the wound, then cover it with gauze.

Ensure that the tape holding the gauze doesn’t directly contact your loved one’s skin. After a few weeks, the wound should clear.

Older adults can prevent further skin tears by keeping their skin hydrated and moisturized. Look for gentle products with petroleum jelly and aloe vera.

Treating Swelling

Besides bruises, older adults may also experience swelling around their legs due to fluid retention. You can help them reduce swelling by getting them to move around more.

This swelling can also be treated by compressing the affected area.

Their doctor may ask your loved one to try using compression wraps or stockings to improve the blood flow around their body.

If you’re treating a bruise that has resulted in swelling at home, then the swelling may be eased with an elastic bandage or compression wrap.

Wrap the affected area in the bandage to apply consistent pressure.

How to Prevent Elderly Skin Bruising

Skin care is important for your elderly loved ones, but completely avoiding bruises isn’t reasonable. However, you can reduce their risks of incurring bruises with these tips:

1) Physical Protection

Ask them to wear protective clothing like shin guards and ensure they have equipment like walking canes to prevent further bruising.

Check the bathroom for any slipping hazards. Install slip-resistant bathmats and grab bars around possible fall-prone spots.

2) Reduce the Number of Obstacles

Clear the way throughout your senior’s home. Without anything cluttering the way, your loved one will have a lower risk of knocking into things and getting more bruises.

Any obstructive wires and other tripping hazards should be tucked away from the main path or packed up.

3) Shade Them From Too Much Sun

Too much sunlight could cause your loved ones to bruise. Remember to apply sunscreen when giving them a dose of natural Vitamin D.

Ask them to wear long-sleeved shirts and hats with wide brims to avoid the sun’s causing bruising.

What Causes Purple Skin in the Elderly?

Purple Skin in the Elderly

It’s possible to spot a bruised area that’s purple on the elderly. These types of bruises may be caused by actinic purpura or senile purpura.

This bruising occurs when small blood vessels under the skin break open after minor bumps and injuries. It is common in the elderly and will occur more often with age.

Bruising from purpura can range from purple to reddish-purple, depending on your loved one’s skin tone.

A bruise from senile purpura will not require medical treatment and should clear in a few weeks without issue.

However, your loved one may be worried about their consistent bruising. Assure them that their health is not at risk and that their skin will clear with some time.

If they want to reduce the number of bruises they experience, their doctor may prescribe topical retinoids.

These medicines will help thicken their skin and lessen their future chances of bruising.

When Should I Worry About a Bruise in the Elderly?

Family members should pay special attention to the site of the bruising.

Most bruises form because of either a medical condition or some accidents resulting from assistance with daily living.

However, if the injury is consistently in the same area, family members must ask their loved one’s doctor about the marks.

If you spot severe bruising on your loved one’s body, it’s a cause for concern. Approach their doctor to ask about your loved one’s treatment.

If a serious injury caused the bruises or bleeding, it would be wise to schedule a prompt trip to the emergency room.

Watch for Signs of Abuse

Bruises on an older adult may also be signs of abuse. Since an older adult’s skin naturally bruises more easily, more marks are not common warning signs.

Pay attention to the site of the injury. If the bruised skin is small and located around their arms and legs, this is likely accidental bruising.

However, if the marks occur around the neck and head, that’s a warning sign for concerned family members.

Privately ask your family member if they can recall how their injury occurred. Seniors with memory issues will be able to recount incidents of abuse.

If the bruising clearly shows finger and knuckle marks, it’s time to contact your loved one’s doctor.


Skin becomes more fragile as we age. This won’t normally be a cause for concern.

If you find a bruise or injury on your loved one that’s hard to explain, ask them and their doctor for any symptoms or medical conditions that may be causing this bruising.

It will take more time for an older adult to heal from a bruise, but they will clear eventually.

Keep your home free of obstructions and tripping hazards to reduce the chances of getting an accidental bruise.