Do you have unsightly bruises on your legs for no apparent reason—or when you don’t remember bumping into anything? Frequent and mysterious bruises on legs usually do not last more than a couple of weeks, but it is the reason behind the markings that calls for our attention. Bruising of legs can be a harmless affliction, except in cases when there is no explainable cause. Then, it may indicate a serious underlying health condition or circulation issue. Before the panic sets in along with the bruises, we will look at what causes bruising and how to treat bruising of legs.
What Is Bruising of Legs?
A bruise is referred to as the discoloring of a patch of skin, usually as a result of an injury. It appears after damage is done to the blood vessels and blood escapes into the adjacent tissue, giving the common black and blue coloring of the skin’s surface. In those with light skin color, as the blood disperses, the area may begin to turn from a purple hue to green and then to yellow before disappearing completely in most cases.
Bruises can present in various shapes and sizes, and are referred to as petechia, purpura, and ecchymosis. They are most commonly caused by injury, such as bumping into a side table. If no blunt force is to blame, it is important to investigate the root cause, as it may be due to poor circulation, weak blood vessels, or improper clotting of blood.
Common Causes of Bruising of Legs
You may notice a bruise and not think much of it, especially if it is not sore or in plain view. Random bruises on legs do have a reasonable cause that may or may not require treatment.
Most bruises on legs occur from trauma or injury and can take a couple of days to appear. Hence, you may not remember how the bruise came to be by the time you notice it. Trauma to the blood vessels can also happen with excessive exercise, as the strenuous pulling and tugging on the vessels can cause blood to secrete to the tissue.
2. UV Exposure
Some people, particularly the elderly, are more susceptible to the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. The radiation can damage the skin surface as well as the deep blood vessels, resulting in bruises.
The properties of many medications such as anti-inflammatories can counteract the body’s ability to form blood clots. Common pain relievers can also hinder the functioning of platelets. A side effect of some medications that cause inflammation of the tissues is bruising. This can happen with any medication that affects the circulation of the blood.
4. Aging Process
As we age, so does our connective tissue, which can weaken and become fragile over time. The thinning of this tissue may lead to significant tearing and damage, with easy bruising as a common result.
5. Vitamin Deficiency
Our tissues need vitamins B12, C, and K, along with folic acid, to be healthy and strong. Without proper nutrition, the tissues and blood vessels can become weak and the body’s stored fat can easily be damaged. This is seen often in women while dieting, as the tissue thins with the loss of fat cells.
6. Reduced Body Fat
Those who have small body frames, a low body mass index (BMI), or are on a rapid weight loss dieting plan are susceptible to bruises.
Many existing health conditions such as diabetes can result in bruising. As this condition affects blood circulation, there may be dark patches in the folds of the skin and encompassing the neck. Injection sites for the insulin needle may also remain bruised. Bruising can be a precursor to diabetes for those predisposed to the condition. Other signs to watch for include blurred vision, fatigue, and thirst.
8. Blood Disease
As expected, any blood disease or disorder that disrupts circulation or clotting formation can have a devastating effect on the surrounding tissue. This can include blood cancers as well.
9. Graves’ Disease
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid gland, causing an overproduction of hormones. The body rapidly burns calories and results in fast weight loss, which damages the blood vessels and causes bruising on legs and elsewhere on the body.
Treating Bruising of Legs
Most bruises will settle and disappear on their own. There are a multitude of natural remedies for healing bruises in those that tend to last or are caused by a disorder or disease.
1. Cold Compress
Apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel or a cold compress to the bruise to force the blood vessels to shrink. This may help with any soreness and prevent the affected area from getting bigger. Do this for 10 minutes, wait for 20, and then apply again.
2. Restrict Blood Flow
Try to reduce swelling by elevating the affected leg above the level of the heart. You can use an elastic bandage and wrap it tightly around the bruised area. For best results, this should be done for the first 24 hours after the bruise appears.
3. Warm Compress
If the bruise still has a vibrant appearance after two days, begin applying heat to the site. This should be done two to three times daily until healing begins. The heat will ensure good blood flow to remove the damaged cells.
Vinegar may be used to promote blood flow to the skin’s surface to gather the collected blood. Combine with warm water.
Use the gel of arnica directly on the bruise to help alleviate the swelling and inflammation. Crushed fresh parsley leaves covered by a bandage could also be used as a topical remedy.
You may need to seek medical attention for your bruise if it is large in nature, experience bleeding gums, have severe pain, or if the bruise persists for more than three weeks.
Preventing Bruising of Legs
Figuring out how to prevent bruising on legs may sound like a challenge, but there are some precautions you can take to reduce your chances:
- Increase your intake of vitamin C with citrus fruit and peppers.
- Consume sufficient flavonoids, found in plant-based foods, to help absorb vitamin C.
- Avoid vitamin K deficiency by eating Brussel’s sprouts, broccoli, and green leafy vegetables.
- Keep pathways clear of obstacles.
- Use protective gear with contact sports and physical activity.
- Secure rugs and small mats in the home.
- Ensure hallways and stairs are well lit and use nightlights at nighttime.
Bruising of legs can cause alarm when there has been no external physical injury or trauma. The dark patches on the skin may be caused by factors associated with existing or preexisting health conditions. While most cases of damaged blood vessels may not be treatable or preventable, there are home remedies and prevention tips that can go a long way with reducing the appearance and chances of bruising.
“Unexplained Bruising on Legs,” New Health Guide; http://www.newhealthguide.org/Unexplained-Bruising-On-Legs.html, last accessed May 8, 2017.
Dr. Chris, “Leg Bruises (Red, Purple, Blue Patches on Legs) Causes and Treatment,” Health Hype; http://www.healthhype.com/leg-bruises-red-purple-blue-patches-on-legs-causes-and-treatment.html, last accessed May 8, 2017.