Bruising on the back of the hands and arms is common. Dermatologists call it ‘actinic purpura’, ‘solar purpura’ or ‘Bateman’s purpura’. These flat blotches start out red, then turn purple, darken a bit further and eventually fade. They differ from normal bruises in several ways. First, usually there wasn’t much of a knock or injury to cause them. Second, they are not tender. Finally, they last longer than normal bruises, often a few weeks.

These usually occur on the back of the hands and the forearms. The skin is sun-damaged, thin and wrinkly, almost flimsy looking. Mostly seen in older individuals, actinic purpura is due to the weakened state of blood vessel walls from many years of sun exposure. Blood thinners, including aspirin, coumadin, and alcohol all may worsen the condition. Steroids, either as a cream, pill or inhaled for lung disease, can also bring the condition on.

Cosmetics can be used to camouflage the lesions. Dermablend cosmetics are recommended for dermatologic conditions, such as actinic purpura. Dermablend can be bought at department stores. Covermark cosmetics are also excellent at covering this condition. Daily application of alpha-hydroxy acid cream, or Retin-A prescription cream will increase skin thickness and may help. For women, the hormone progesterone in lotion may also help.

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