Why anorexia causes bruising

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Bruising in the body results from outside pressure to the skin and tissue, such as a fall, a blow, or any other blunt trauma that impacts the body with sudden force. Medications, vitamin deficiencies, bleeding disorders, diseases, and other medical conditions can also cause bruising. (1) The vitamin deficiencies and weight loss that occur in people who have anorexia nervosa (AN) can cause bruising, too.

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Why does anorexia cause bruising? 

Increased bruising is frequently seen in people who have anorexia due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that impair the production of white blood cells and result in low platelet concentrations in the blood. Platelets are responsible for the formation of blood clots. If the platelets cannot clot appropriately, blood leaks out of the blood vessels and goes into the tissues, causing anorexia bruising. 

Some common vitamin and mineral deficiencies that prevent blood from clotting properly and thus result in bleeding that causes bruising include vitamin C, vitamin K, omega 3 , and iron deficiencies. (2)

How does anorexia affect healing?

Healing from any illness depends on a ready supply of nutrients for the body to get to work and heal the damaged area. To generate healthy new tissues, the body needs plenty of protein, vitamins A, C, and E, copper, omega 3 fats, and zinc to create new collagen. New tissues are composed of collagen. (3)

If any vitamins and minerals required for building collagen are low, then the body won’t produce enough strong, healthy tissue. Because people who have anorexia aren’t consuming enough food, they tend to have many vitamin and mineral deficiencies. So the skin of people who have anorexia can be thin and dry, and the tissue prone to bruising.

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Healing of anorexia bruising

Vitamin C is essential to make new skin and tissues, as it is necessary for the formation of collagen. Without it, collagen becomes weak, and hemorrhage then occurs in almost any organ or muscle. That’s when the blood vessels under the skin will rupture and cause blood to leak into the surrounding tissues. This is what forms a bruise.

Left untreated, a vitamin C deficiency will progress and can lead to brain hemorrhages or blood inside the heart cavity, causing death. Deficiency of vitamin C rarely occurs by itself. (3) This and other nutrient deficiencies can result in very serious, potentially fatal, medical complications.

However, essential vitamins and minerals can be replenished, and the body can be repaired. Eating a variety of foods on a regular basis can restore the body and its functions. Supplements can help, too. But this is not so simple for people who struggle with anorexia, and the refeeding process must be medically supervised.

Bruising can be one sign, but there are likely others that may indicate a person has anorexia. It is critical to seek professional help with expertise in treating eating disorders and associated conditions if you suspect you or someone you love has anorexia. 

Within Health is here to help. Contact us to learn more about our first steps when it comes to treating eating disorders.

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Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Resources

  1. Moake, J. L. (2022, April 18). Bruising and bleeding - blood disorders. Merck Manuals Consumer Version. Retrieved Jan 31, 2022, from https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/blood-disorders/blood-clotting-process/bruising-and-bleeding
  2. Fraser, I. M., & Dean, M. (2009). Extensive bruising secondary to vitamin C deficiency. BMJ case reports. Retrieved Jan 31, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3027858/%C2%A0
  3. Vitamin C deficiency. (n.d.). Retrieved Jan 31, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493187/
  4. Hanachi, M., Dicembre, M., Rives-Lange, C., Ropers, J., Bemer, P., Zazzo, J.-F., Poupon, J., Dauvergne, A., & Melchior, J.-C. (2019). Micronutrients deficiencies in 374 severely malnourished anorexia nervosa inpatients. Nutrients, 11(4), 792. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11040792

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