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.

What Is a Bruise?

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.

Cognitive and Motor Skill Impairment

One of the most apparent causes of a bruise the morning after a night of drinking is that you physically bumped into something the night before. While that’s not necessarily a direct cause of drinking, heavy alcohol use can contribute to more accidents. Alcohol affects your brain in multiple ways that make you more accident-prone. Here are three aspects of your brain that are affected by alcohol and why that can contribute to morning-after bruises. 


Your judgment and decision-making skills will be affected fairly quickly when you start drinking. This is because it affects the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that controls reasoning and higher brain function. Since alcohol also lowers your inhibitions, you may be more likely to try something that you normally wouldn’t do, including potentially dangerous physical activities. This is also why people may be willing to get behind the wheel of a car while they’re drunk.

Motor Control

Under normal circumstances, your brain communicates with your body by sending signals through your central nervous system. Alcohol, like other psychoactive substances, interacts with your central nervous system by altering some of the chemical communication processes. It works to slow down central nervous system activity. This can affect things like hand-eye coordination. When you want to unlock your front door to go home after a night of drinking, you see the lock, and your brain sends a signal to your hand to move the key toward it. But your central nervous system slows down, and the signal is impaired. 

Something that you do every day becomes more of a challenge. As a result, you may be more likely to smack your knuckle on the knob and wake up with a bruised hand the next day. Motor control issues may begin when your blood alcohol level reaches 0.06, and they get really bad at 0.1. By the time your BAC reaches 0.2, you may need help walking. 

Reaction Time

For the same reason you have trouble with motor control and coordination, you will also have a worse reaction time while drinking. Reacting to some external stimulus, like someone tossing you a football, requires your brain to see the incoming object, register it, decide to catch or dodge it, and then send a signal to your body to act all within less than a second. Since alcohol slows down central nervous system activity and communication, you take longer to register stimuli and decide what to do. It increases your chances of being hit in the forehead with an incoming football, but it may also cause you to bump into people or objects. 

All of these impairments can lead to more morning after bruises, but they can also make driving extremely dangerous. Even small amounts of alcohol can affect your cognitive functioning enough to make driving dangerous. 

Why Do You Bruise More Easily After Drinking?

You may be more likely to get minor injuries because of alcohol’s effects on your brain, but can alcohol make a bump more likely to form a bruise? Alcohol can cause you to bruise more easily. It’s the same reason you aren’t allowed to drink before surgery: alcohol is a vasodilator, which means that it causes your blood vessels to relax and expand. This will increase blood flow throughout your body. When you go in for surgery, you may bleed more, obscuring when your surgeons are doing and complicating your surgery. 

But you may also bleed a little more if you cut yourself while drinking. Bruising comes into play when you bump a part of your body on a hard surface, causing blood vessels to rupture. While you’re drinking, the blood flow around the surface of your skin will increase; even minor bumps can cause blood vessels to burst, forming a bruise. 

But what does bruising after drinking alcohol mean? If you notice that you bruise easily after one night of drinking, it may not indicate anything serious. But if you bruise more easily all the time after chronic heavy drinking, it may be a sign of significant health concern. 

Your Liver’s Role in Bruising

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.

You Can Protect Your Liver

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.

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.

Man rubbing his bruised elbowAccording 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.

Alcoholism Causes Symptoms You Can Feel

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:

  • Skipping out on work or social obligations to drink
  • Using alcohol while driving, swimming, or engaging in other activities in which alcohol use is dangerous
  • Needing to drink more alcohol to feel the same effects
  • Alcohol cravings
  • Continuing to drink, even though it’s causing problems with your health or relationships
  • Feeling nauseated, nervous, or sweaty when you don’t drink

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.

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