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Learning About Solar Purpura

What is solar purpura?

Solar purpura (say "PURR-pyuh-ruh" or "PURR-puh-ruh") is a condition that causes one or more flat, purple bruises. It often occurs on the hands, forearms, and legs. Purpura is common in older people. It is called solar purpura because it occurs most often on areas that are exposed to the sun.

The bruises bother some people because of how they look. But they aren't serious.

What happens when you have solar purpura?

As we age, our skin becomes less elastic and more easily damaged. Exposure to the sun also weakens the walls of blood vessels. These changes increase the chance of bruising. These bruises can occur after even minor injuries, such as lightly hitting your hand or arm against something.

These bruises are more common in people who take medicines such as corticosteroids or aspirin and other blood thinners.

Unlike other bruises, these bruises usually don't hurt.

How can you prevent it?

There is no sure way to prevent solar purpura. But to reduce the chance of getting the condition:

  • Always wear sunscreen on exposed skin. Make sure the sunscreen has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and says "broad spectrum" on the label. Use it every day, even when it is cloudy.
  • Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.
  • Protect your skin from injury. Wear gloves when you garden or do other yard work. Put padding on handrails and walkers.
  • Don't take aspirin or medicines such as ibuprofen or naproxen, unless your doctor recommends it. They can raise the chance of bleeding.
  • Ask your doctor if any of your medicines can increase the chance of bleeding.

How is it treated?

No treatment is needed. The bruises fade over a few weeks.

If you don't like how the bruises look, you can cover them with clothing or makeup.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You have more bruising than usual and on more places on your body.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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