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Causes of Bruising in the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms
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For numerous reasons, it is fairly common for older people to bruise more easily. But that doesn’t mean that extensive or unexplained bruising in the elderly should be ignored. What causes bruising in the elderly can also be more a serious condition. That’s why you should consult your GP if you notice bruising that raises concerns.

What’s more, even if the causes of elderly bruising are relatively benign, it may be important to implement lifestyle modifications to protect an older person from getting bruises.

So, what causes easy bruising in elderly people? In this article, we’ll examine the different factors that can result in bruises or bruise-like symptoms.

Thinning skin and less fat under the skin

As a natural consequence of ageing and lifelong sun damage, older people often have more delicate skin, less fat under their skin and weaker small blood vessels. This combination can result in a condition called senile purpura, also called actinic purpura.

Marks from senile purpura sometimes look like bruises, or they can look like patches on the skin that appear purplish-red or purple on lighter skin tones and purple, brown or black on darker skin tones. These marks don’t usually hurt when pressed as bruises do. They typically appear in places where an older person’s body will have been exposed to the sun, such as the forearms, neck, or face. And they often take longer to fade than most bruises – typically a few weeks but possibly even months.

If you’re wondering what causes bruising in elderly people, senile purpura is one of the most common answers. However, while senile purpura is typically not a dangerous condition, it’s best to speak with a GP if you are concerned about bruising on yourself or an elderly family member. That way, your GP can check that the causes are not serious.


When an older person is at risk of having a stroke or heart attack, a doctor may prescribe blood thinners (also called anticoagulants), which reduce the blood’s ability to clot. When an elderly person’s blood is less able to clot, they are more likely to experience bleeding. Since bruises are just bleeding underneath the skin, this means that seniors on blood thinners are also more likely to have bruises.

In fact, the NHS resource on blood thinners states that “severe bruising” can be a side effect of these medications, as well as other excessive bleeding.

Steroids are another class of medication that causes bruising in the elderly. Steroids are a potential treatment for numerous conditions common in the elderly, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), arthritis and some autoimmune conditions.

Many other medicines and non-prescription supplements can also cause excessive bruising. If you’re visiting your doctor to ask about bruising, be sure to bring a full list of all pills, medicines and supplements you’re taking, even those that are bought over the counter.


Surprisingly, another potential cause of bruising in the elderly is malnutrition. Yes, vitamin deficiencies such as scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) can be what causes easy bruising in elderly people. That’s one reason why it’s so important to ensure that older people are getting good nutrition and not skipping meals due to low appetite or the cost-of-living crisis.

More serious medical conditions

One reason not to disregard easy bruising in the elderly is that it can be a sign of more serious illnesses. Kidney and liver problems, some types of cancer, heavy consumption of alcohol and other concerning problems are all possibilities when it comes to what causes bruising in elderly people.

Elder abuse

It’s worth mentioning that family and friends of elderly people should be alert to the danger of elder abuse. Unexplained bruises, particularly on the face, can be a warning sign. For help and advice about protecting the elderly from abuse, visit the Hourglass charity website or call them at 0808 808 8141.


Many elderly people are at greater risk of falling. This can be due to a combination of causes including low muscle tone, poor balance, stiffness due to arthritis, numbness in the feet due to type 2 diabetes, heaviness in the legs due to oedema, and many others.

A fall can result in painful bruising in an older person, especially since many seniors do have the thinner skin, reduced fat under the skin and weakened capillaries that we mentioned earlier. In fact, some conditions can raise the risk of both bruising and falls. For example, an older person who is taking blood thinners may experience bruising and be at risk of a stroke, which can result in a fall.

To help prevent falls, it’s always a good idea to ensure floors are clear from obstructions and not slippery. If a fall does occur, a personal alarm with automatic fall detection can be of great help. This type of personal alarm senses that an older person has fallen and calls for help even if the wearer is unable to press a button – for example, if they have struck their head. This function ensures that help will be on the way no matter what, aiding with bruises and any other injuries.

Even if a senior hasn’t struck their head in a fall, it can be very difficult for them to reach a phone from the floor, especially if they are experiencing injuries and bruising. A one-touch personal alarm makes calling for help easy – the alarm is worn as a pendant or watch and calls for help with the press of just one button. This protects seniors from the dangerous experience of a ‘long lie,’ a period of over one hour lying on the floor.

Personal alarms that call for help with injuries

It’s hard knowing that an older loved one is vulnerable to bruising, especially when bruising accompanies or is a part of a serious health condition. However, it’s reassuring that there are steps that seniors and their families and friends can take to provide peace of mind when bruising is a concern.

An elderly personal alarm from SureSafe, a UK market leader in wrist and pendant alarms, ensures that if a fall or accident does happen, assistance will be called to help with bruising and other injuries. Vulnerable seniors can choose a personal alarm with 24/7 monitoring, ensuring that they won’t have to wait until morning for help if they fall at night. Alternatively, a family and friends alarm allows seniors to call for assistance from loved ones who are nearby.

If you’d like to know more about how our high-quality, easy to use and affordable personal alarms can help a senior who experiences bruising, just give us a call or 0800 112 3201, connect with us through our live chat or request a call back.

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