Senile purpura is a condition that commonly affects aging skin. Older people with light skin tones are more likely to develop the condition. People may also refer to it as Bateman’s purpura or actinic purpura.

Senile purpura may look like oddly shaped discolored areas on exposed skin, usually on the arms and hands.

This article discusses what senile purpura is in more detail, including its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

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People may also refer to the discolored spots of senile purpura as blood spots or skin hemorrhages.

The initial signs of senile purpura are purple, brown, or red bruises on the skin that have an irregular shape. They are not the result of bleeding disorders, a lack of vitamins or minerals, or a sign of a significant injury.

Healthcare professionals may refer to small patches as “petechiae” and larger ones as “ecchymoses“. The colors will usually not darken or lighten much as the spots progress. After the bruise has healed, however, a yellow or brown patch might remain on the skin.

Senile purpura itself is not harmful, but it may be a sign of an underlying condition.

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Research suggests that aging typically causes senile purpura. As the body ages, the skin becomes thinner and more delicate.

Over time, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays weakens the connective tissues that hold the blood vessels in their place. This weakness makes the blood vessels fragile, which means that even after a minor bump, red blood cells can leak into the deeper layers of the skin, causing the distinctive purpura to appear.

Senile purpura occurs most frequently in older adults, but normal aging is not the only source of this kind of skin damage. The skin’s aging process may accelerate if a person has spent extended periods of time in UV light. Individuals with lighter skin tones are more likely to experience senile purpura.

People who take certain medications, such as blood thinners or corticosteroids, on a regular basis may be more likely to experience purpura. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also contribute to the condition.

Senile purpura may also be a sign of collagen loss in the skin and bones. Doctors may see the loss of collagen in the skin as an indication that the person is experiencing a similar reduction in bone health.

The symptoms of senile purpura typically occur on parts of the skin that are prone to sun exposure, such as the arms, hands, or top of the head.

The most noticeable symptoms are the distinct reddish purple or brown spots that appear on the body and keep recurring over an extended period.

Additional symptoms include:

  • thin skin
  • loose skin that lacks elasticity
  • skin that tears easily
  • purpura that occur without injury

The bruises caused by senile purpura may last for up to 3 weeks before fading. After the bruise is gone, skin discoloration at the site may persist for a long period of time.

Doctors usually diagnose senile purpura based on a physical examination and their medical history.

However, they will sometimes use tests to help them make sure the purpura is not caused by something more serious. This is because a range of conditions may contribute to the development of purpura, including some vascular diseases that affect collagen in the body, such as lupus, and some cancers, including leukemia.

A person may need to have tests such as:

A healthcare professional may also take a biopsy to check the skin and blood cultures.

The body can usually heal itself from the bruises of senile purpura without any additional help.

However, if the skin is especially thin, it may tear, causing a lesion at the site of the bruise. Therefore, a person should take measures to protect the skin from any further damage.

By wearing long sleeved shirts and using sunscreen, people can help protect their skin from the sun. These methods will not reverse skin damage as a result of sun exposure, but they can help prevent additional damage.

People may also wish to speak to a healthcare professional, like a dermatologist, about whether any moisturizers or other topical treatments may be beneficial for their skin.

Senile purpura itself is not harmful. It describes red, purple, or brown bruises that appear on the skin. They are usually the result of aging and are more likely to affect people with light skin tones.

However, people should consider speaking with their doctor to find out if any underlying conditions are causing the pupura.

The bruises often heal by themselves in a few weeks but can leave lasting patches of discoloration on the skin.

People who are uncomfortable with the appearance of senile purpura may decide to contact a dermatologist for recommendations for healing the damaged skin and preventing further damage.