Purpura is preventable. Start now!
I often see patients, generally in their sixties and older, with purple bruises and skin tears on their arms or shins. Most of these patients blame this issue on thin skin, blood thinners or aspirin- however, the reality is quite different. The origin of these purple bruises started years ago and is due to getting too much sun on their forearms, hands and shins. This newsletter focuses on this preventable problem.
Chronic sun damage on the hands and arms is common for those who work or play outdoors such as gardeners, boaters or golfers. Constant sun exposure causes the deeper layer, the dermis, to become thin over time. This thinning causes wrinkling. It also causes the skin to become so thin on the forearms and shins that even the slightest injury causes small blood vessels to tear and bleed under the skin. The resulting purple splotch is known as purpura (see photo below). Purpura is different from a typical bruise which is seen with a traumatic injury to normal skin.
Patients often point to the purple patches on their arms and ask what can be done. Unfortunately, the problem takes a long time to develop and once it occurs there is very little to do for it other than to protect the arms from injury and to prevent further sun damage. However, the problem can be prevented by wearing protective clothing on arms and legs when in high sun activities. Covering the skin with clothing is much more effective than sunscreen. Various companies, such as Coolibar, make lightweight shirts or UV protection arm sleeves and gloves that work to prevent this unsightly problem. Start protecting early and often and this problem does not need to be your future!