It’s happened to almost everyone: You step out of the shower, you notice a new bruise on your body, and you’re not quite sure how that bruise got there. If you’ve been engaged in some athletic activity that involves jostling and jockeying for position, such as playing soccer, you may have a good idea of how it appeared. But if you’re not athletic, you may be left wondering.
If you drink heavily, regularly, or both, your alcohol use could be the cause of your bruise. That discoloration sitting beneath the surface of your skin might prompt you to ask for help so that you can stop drinking for good.
A bruise is a spilling of blood beneath the surface of the skin. Typically, a bruise begins as a purple or red spot, and as it heals, and the blood is reabsorbed into the body, it can fade to green or even yellow.
A traditional bruise comes about after your body endures some impact. Running into furniture, falling into a something hard, or being struck by a flying object could all leave you with bruises.
Those who bruise easily develop lesions when there is no known cause. They have experienced no trauma, and the bruises they have are large and appear frequently. According to BMJ Best Practice, surveys suggest that somewhere between 12 percent and 55 percent of people have some form of easy bruising.
Some bleeding disorders can cause easy bruising, and those that seem speckled with purple splotches on a regular basis may think they are experiencing symptoms of a disorder like this. As The BMJ points out, bleeding disorders tend to run in families. Those who bruise easily and don’t have a family history of a bleeding disorder are unlikely to have a bleeding disorder themselves. Instead, another form of disease is likely causing the problem. For some, that disorder involves alcohol abuse.
The liver processes every sip of alcohol you take. That vital organ, which sits on the right side of your body beneath your rib cage, processes all of the blood in your body and cleans it of toxins before releasing it into circulation.
According to UPMC, your liver contains about 10 percent of your total blood supply at any given time. When you’re drinking alcohol, your liver is working hard to process the toxins from your blood, but that work takes time. When you drink so much that your liver cannot keep up with the amount you’re drinking, intoxication can take hold.
While the liver is designed to filter out toxins, the sensitive cells that line the liver can be damaged by alcohol exposure. Your liver can begin to develop fatty deposits because of alcohol exposure, and that fat makes it harder for your liver to work effectively. If you keep drinking, your liver can swell, and cells within the liver can die. If you continue to drink, the liver can develop scarring. If the scarring is extensive, the liver may not be able to do its vital work.
In addition to filtering your blood, your liver’s job involves blood cell management.
Your liver helps your blood to clot, and the liver helps blood to move evenly throughout the body. When the liver is damaged, it can no longer filter alcohol correctly, and it may not be able to keep the bloodstream healthy. That can lead to excessive bruising.
According to the American Liver Foundation, 10 percent to 20 percent of people who drink heavily develop the most severe form of alcohol-related liver damage, and that takes hold after about 10 years of drinking. Most people who drink heavily will progress through the stages of liver damage described above over time.
Damage caused by alcohol is not inevitable. By limiting the amount you drink or quitting an alcohol habit altogether, you can protect your liver and ensure that it can do its work for many years to come. Liver damage is associated with heavy drinking. Steering clear of that drinking habit can be a good first step.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, heavy drinking for women involves having more than three drinks in one day or more than seven drinks per week.
Heavy drinking for men involves more than four drinks in one day or more than 14 drinks per week.
Ensuring that you do not drink at this level could be a wise way to limit your risk of unusual bruising. If you already have unusual bruising, your liver could already be damaged, and that could mean that drinking at any level is not wise for you.
Your liver is an amazing organ that can heal itself. The liver can even regrow. But a liver that is damaged needs a perfectly pure environment to heal, and that means alcohol at any level must be eliminated.
Every sip does another tiny bit of damage and impairs healing, and that can lead to more bruising. To allow the liver to heal and the risk of bruising to drop, you must stop drinking altogether.
Alcohol can change circuitry in the brain, and those changes can make it difficult for you to curb an alcohol habit. You may attempt to commit to cut back on your drinking but may find that you can’t resist the temptation to drink for more than a day or two. The brain changes brought about by alcohol could make clear thinking difficult, and that could make it hard for you to stick to your commitments even if you want to do so.
In addition to causing a lack of ability to quit drinking, alcoholism can cause other noticeable changes in the way you think and act. According to the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of alcoholism include:
Symptoms of Alcoholism
All of these symptoms indicate that drinking has become a major problem in your life, and you should consider getting professional help to recover. It can be hard to think through an alcoholism problem on your own, but with the help of a therapist and addiction treatment professionals, you can gain control.
(September 2018). Assessment of Easy Bruising. BMJ Best Practice. from https://bestpractice.bmj.com/topics/en-gb/1208
(February 2017). Investigating Easy Bruising in an Adult. The BMJ. from https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.j251
(September 2015). What Does the Liver Do for the Body? UPMC. from https://share.upmc.com/2015/09/what-does-the-liver-do-for-the-body/
(2017). Alcohol-Related Liver Disease. American Liver Foundation. from https://liverfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Alcohol-Related-Liver-Disease-Brochure-2017.pdf
(2015). Alcohol and Your Kidneys. National Kidney Foundation. from https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/alcohol
(July 2018). Alcohol Use Disorder: Symptoms and Causes. Mayo Clinic. from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243