Sporadic bruising usually isn’t cause for worry. Keeping an eye out for other unusual symptoms may help you determine if there’s an underlying cause.

Oftentimes, you can reduce your risk for future bruising by making sure you’re getting the right nutrients in your diet.

Read on to learn more about common causes, what to watch for, and when to see a doctor.

Fast facts

  • This tendency can run in families. Inherited disorders, such as von Willebrand disease, can affect your blood’s ability to clot and may cause easy bruising.
  • Females bruise more easily than males. Researchers have found that each sex organizes fat and blood vessels differently within the body. The blood vessels are tightly secured in males, making the vessels less vulnerable to damage.
  • Older adults bruise more easily, too. The protective structure of skin and fatty tissue that protects your blood vessels weakens over time. This means you may develop bruises after minor injuries.

Intense exercise can leave you with more than just sore muscles. If you’ve recently overdone it at the gym, you may develop bruises around the affected muscles.

When you strain a muscle, you injure muscle tissue deep under the skin. This can cause blood vessels to burst and leak blood into the surrounding area. If you’re bleeding more than normal for some reason, the blood will pool under your skin and cause a bruise.

Certain medications make you more susceptible to bruising.

Anticoagulants (blood thinners) and over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve) affect your blood’s ability to clot.

When your blood takes longer to clot, more of it leaks from your blood vessels and accumulates under your skin.

If your bruising is tied to medication overuse, you may also experience:

  • gas
  • bloating
  • stomach pain
  • heartburn
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • constipation

If you suspect that your bruising is a result of OTC or prescription medication use, see a doctor. They can advise you on any next steps.

Vitamins perform many important functions in your blood. They aid in the formation of red blood cells, help maintain mineral levels, and lower your cholesterol.

Vitamin C, for example, supports your immune system and aids in wound healing. If you aren’t getting enough vitamin C, your skin may begin to bruise easily, resulting in “random” bruising.

Other symptoms of a vitamin C deficiency include:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • irritability
  • swollen or bleeding gums

You may begin to bruise easily if you aren’t getting enough iron. That’s because your body needs iron to keep your blood cells healthy.

If your blood cells aren’t healthy, your body won’t be able to get the oxygen that it needs to function. This may make your skin more susceptible to bruising.

Other symptoms of iron deficiency include:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • a swollen or sore tongue
  • a crawling or tingling feeling in your legs
  • cold hands or feet
  • cravings to eat things that are not food, such as ice, dirt, or clay
  • a swollen or sore tongue

Although rare in healthy adults, vitamin K deficiencies can slow the rate at which blood clots. When blood doesn’t clot quickly, more of it pools beneath the skin and forms a bruise.

Other symptoms of vitamin K deficiency include:

  • bleeding in the mouth or gums
  • blood in your stool
  • heavy periods
  • excessive bleeding from punctures or wounds

If you suspect that your bruising is a result of deficiency, see a healthcare provider. They may prescribe iron tablets or other medication — as well as help you modify your diet — to meet your nutritional needs.

Diabetes is a metabolic condition that affects your body’s ability to produce or use insulin.

Although diabetes itself doesn’t cause bruising, it can slow your healing time and allow bruises to linger longer than normal.

If you haven’t already received a diabetes diagnosis, look for other symptoms such as:

  • increased thirst
  • increased urination
  • increased hunger
  • unintentional weight loss
  • blurry vision
  • tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet

See a doctor or other healthcare provider if you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms alongside bruising. They can make a diagnosis, if needed, and advise you on next steps.

If diabetes has already been diagnosed, your bruising may simply be a result of slow wound healing. It may also result from pricking the skin to test your blood sugar or injecting insulin.

Von Willebrand disease is a genetic disorder that affects your blood’s ability to clot.

People with von Willebrand disease are born with the condition, but may not develop symptoms until later in life. This bleeding disorder is a lifelong condition.

When blood isn’t clotting like it should, bleeding can be heavier or longer than normal. Whenever this blood gets trapped under the surface of the skin, it will form a bruise.

Someone with von Willebrand disease might notice large or lumpy bruises from minor, even unnoticeable, injuries.

Other symptoms include:

  • severe bleeding after injuries, dental work, or surgeries
  • nosebleeds that last longer than 10 minutes
  • blood in the urine or stool
  • heavy or long periods
  • large blood clots (over an inch) in your menstrual flow

See a doctor if you suspect your symptoms are a result of von Willebrand disease.

Thrombophilia means that your blood has an increased tendency to clot. This condition occurs when your body makes too much or too little clotting chemicals.

Thrombophilia typically has no symptoms until a blood clot develops.

If you develop a blood clot, your doctor will probably test you for thrombophilia and may put you on blood thinners (anticoagulants). People who take blood thinners bruise more easily.

In some cases, random bruising may be associated with one of the following less common causes.

7. Chemotherapy

People who have cancer often experience excessive bleeding and bruising.

If you’re undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments, you may have low blood platelet counts (thrombocytopenia).

Without enough platelets, your blood clots more slowly than normal. This means that a minor bump or injury can cause large or lumpy bruises.

People who have cancer and are struggling to eat may also experience vitamin deficiencies that impact the blood’s ability to clot.

People who have cancers in parts of the body responsible for blood production, like the liver, may also experience unusual clotting

8. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that starts in lymphocyte cells, which are part of the immune system.

The most common symptom of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is painless swelling in the lymph nodes, which are located in the neck, groin, and armpit.

If NHL spreads to the bone marrow, it can reduce the number of blood cells in your body. This can cause your platelet count to drop, which will impact your blood’s ability to clot and lead to easy bruising and bleeding.

Other symptoms include:

  • night sweats
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • a cough, difficulty swallowing, or breathlessness (if the lymphoma is in the chest area)
  • indigestion, stomach pain, or weight loss (if the lymphoma is in the stomach or bowel)

If NHL spreads to the bone marrow, it can reduce the number of blood cells in your body. This can cause your platelet count to drop, which will impact your blood’s ability to clot and lead to easy bruising and bleeding.

In rare cases, one of the following conditions may cause random bruising.

9. Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP)

This bleeding disorder is caused by a low platelet count. Without enough platelets, the blood has trouble clotting.

People with ITP may develop bruises for no apparent reason. Bleeding under the skin may also present as pinprick-sized red or purple dots that resemble a rash.

Other symptoms include:

  • bleeding of the gums
  • nosebleeds
  • heavy menstrual periods
  • blood in the urine or stool

10. Hemophilia A

Hemophilia A is a genetic condition that affects the blood’s ability to clot.

People who have hemophilia A are missing an important clotting factor, factor VIII, resulting in excessive bleeding and bruising.

Other symptoms include:

  • joint pain and swelling
  • spontaneous bleeding
  • excessive bleeding after injury, surgery, or childbirth

11. Hemophilia B

People who have hemophilia B are missing a clotting factor called factor IX.

Although the specific protein involved in this disorder is different than the one associated with hemophilia A, the conditions share the same symptoms.

This includes:

  • excessive bleeding and bruising
  • joint pain and swelling
  • spontaneous bleeding
  • excessive bleeding after injury, surgery, or childbirth

12. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a group of inherited conditions that affect the connective tissues. This includes the joints, skin, and blood vessel walls.

People who have this condition have joints that move far beyond the typical range of motion and stretchy skin. The skin is also thin, fragile, and easily damaged. Bruising is common.

13. Cushing syndrome

Cushing syndrome develops when you have too much cortisol in your blood. This may result from an uptick in your body’s natural cortisol production or overuse of corticosteroid medications.

Cushing syndrome causes the skin to thin, resulting in easy bruising.

Other symptoms include:

  • purple stretch marks on the breasts, arms, abdomen, and thighs
  • unexplained weight gain
  • fatty tissue deposits in the face and upper back
  • acne
  • fatigue
  • increased thirst
  • increased urination

Most cases of random bruising are nothing to worry about.

But if you still find unusual bruises after switching up your diet or cutting back on OTC pain relievers, it may be time to consult a doctor.

See a doctor or other healthcare provider right away if you experience any of the following:

  • a bruise that increases in size over time
  • a bruise that doesn’t change within two weeks
  • bleeding that can’t be easily stopped
  • severe pain or tenderness
  • severe or long-lasting nose bleeds
  • severe night sweats (that soak through your clothes)
  • unusually heavy periods or large blood clots in menstrual flow