You look down one day and notice some unexplained bruising on your arms. You vaguely remember bumping your arm, but it looks as if you had a major injury. What’s going on? It could be actinic purpura.
Known as actinic, senile, or solar purpura, this condition leaves flat, dark splotches or bruises on the skin. It looks like a bruise, but it takes weeks to go away.
What Causes Actinic Purpura?
So why are you suddenly dealing with big bruises from minor bumps? Actinic purpura starts because of thin skin. A combination of sun damage and aging causes our skin to thin over time. To make it worse, blood vessels become fragile too. This means even a small bump causes the skin to bleed from underneath. Then you’re left with a long-term bruise, which can be extremely frustrating.
What Else Could It Be?
Senile purpura technically comes from sun damage, but similar bruises can show up with regular use of certain medications. If you’re taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or other blood thinners, that could be the source of the trouble. Over time, these medications thin the skin too. Plus, they increase bruising.
Why? Well, aspirin permanently inhibits platelets that help our blood clot. Once those platelets are exposed to the medication, they can no longer bond. But since you’re always making new platelets, you don’t see the effects immediately. Yet, if you continually take these medications, you’ll likely start seeing more frequent bruising.
Where Will I See the Bruising?
You’ll see most bruising on the arms and hands because those areas are most susceptible to injury. We swing our arms and hands around and bump into things, so that’s where the bruises show up. Some people also notice bruising on their lower legs for the same reason.
Plus, these are the areas that have suffered from years of sun damage. What ares on our bodies are exposed most often? The arms, hands, and face. Those areas where we get the most sun is where our skin thins the most.
How Do I Treat Actinic Purpura?
These splotches can be frustrating and unsightly, but they aren’t dangerous. However, they tend to accumulate. So you may start with an occasional spot, but over time you’ll have an armful.
If you’re looking to get less bruising, products containing arnica are some of the most effective treatments. These products are available at most health food stores or pharmacies and offer a homeopathic option for dealing with blood clots.
But first, visit your dermatologist. Dermatologists help you understand the causes of your skin problem. Patients often don’t know why they’re having a particular problem. We can help you figure out if it’s a result of sun damage, or if you’re getting too much of your blood thinner medication.
If it’s bruising from all that sun damage, then there may be other problems from sun damage too. This initial bruising could be a sign of other sun damage issues to come. The sooner we start treatment and prevention, the better your skin will be.
Dr. R. Todd Plott is a board-certified dermatologist in Coppell, Keller, and Saginaw, TX. His specialization and professional interests include treating patients suffering with acne, identifying and solving complex skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and identifying and treating all types of skin cancers. In his spare time, Dr. Plott enjoys cycling, traveling with his wife, and spending time with his children and new grandson.
Learn more about Dr. Plott.