Uncovering the Relationship Between Alcohol and Bruising


Key Takeaways

  • Alcohol thins blood, increasing risk of bruising and subcutaneous bleeding.
  • Vasodilation from alcohol widens blood vessels, leading to easier bruising.
  • Alcohol affects platelet production, reducing blood clotting efficiency.
  • Chronic alcohol consumption can damage the liver, increasing bruising susceptibility.

Alcohol addiction can cause various health issues, some of which include bruising and subcutaneous bleeding.

Alcohol is a blood thinner, which means it affects the platelet count and quality in people who drink too much.

And since the liver controls blood clotting, alcohol-related liver disease can cause increased bruising, as well.

Read on to learn how heavy drinking can make you more susceptible to bruising and how you can prevent this condition from worsening.

Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Bruising?

While the alcohol itself doesn’t lead to skin bruising, it can make you bruise more easily because of the following reasons:

1. Vasodilation

Vasodilation is the widening of the blood vessels caused by the relaxation of the muscles in these blood vessels.

This condition occurs naturally in our bodies in response to various stimuli. However, excessive vasodilation caused by external factors, like drinking alcohol, can be problematic.

According to Scott Swartzwelder, Ph.D. (coauthor of Buzzed), consistent vasodilation caused by drinking alcohol leads to more blood flowing through your blood vessels.

This increased blood flow means more blood might escape the vessel if it ruptures.

Dr Swartzwelder also states that vasodilation doesn’t require a binge drinking episode to happen.

Only a couple of drinks can cause vasodilation of blood vessels close to the skin, leading to potential bruising if you bump your body against a hard surface.

2. The Blood Thinning Properties of Alcohol

Alcohol has blood thinning properties, which can increase the risk of bruising.

This happens because it interferes with the production of platelets (and other blood cells) in the bone marrow.

It can also make circulating platelets less sticky, rendering them less effective in forming clots.

The reduced platelet count and stickiness of already circulating platelets prolong bleeding time from injuries, leading to visible bruises.

3. The Increased Susceptibility to Fall

A part of your brain called the cerebellum is responsible for maintaining your body’s balance.

According to a 2021 study, the cerebellum is one of the most vulnerable areas that alcohol can directly affect, leading to difficulty in maintaining balance.

Excessive drinking may also lead to an alcoholic blackout, a condition reached when the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over 0.16%.

When that happens, the person is seemingly functional and appears normal to other people.

However, the person often can’t recall the events that happened during an alcoholic blackout, which can include bumps, falls, and accidents that may have caused bruises.

We also have the risk of alcohol-induced seizures, which are common during binge drinking.

The excessive alcohol in the bloodstream becomes too much for the liver to process, posing a risk of generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

When that happens, the person convulses uncontrollably and may harm themselves or others in the process, potentially leading to bruises.

4. Alcohol-Induced Liver Disease

Chronic alcohol consumption will damage the liver and may even cause irreversible liver cirrhosis, a condition where clumps of liver cells are permanently damaged and unable to perform their function, leading to complete liver failure in some cases.

Other alcohol-related liver diseases resulting from consistent liver inflammation, like alcoholic jaundice (aka alcoholic hepatitis), are also common with chronic drinking.

A chronically damaged liver may not produce the proteins required for coagulation.

These conditions combined can lead to coagulopathy (bruising and bleeding even with the slightest trauma).

5. Lack of Vitamin C

Vitamin C has many benefits for the body, and it’s important for healing wounds.

According to a 2014 study, alcohol abuse can lead to malnutrition, excessive diarrhea, and excessive urination—all of which reduce vitamin C in the body, eventually causing bleeding and bruising.

Is Alcohol-induced Bruising Reversible?

Yes, alcohol-induced bruising is typically reversible.

When you stop drinking too much alcohol and allow your body time to heal, the bruises should fade away on their own within a couple of weeks, similar to regular bruises.

Aside from going into alcohol treatment, there’s nothing specific you need to do to speed up the healing process, assuming that you’re not suffering from other diseases that affect coagulation.

If bruises persist for a few weeks, it’s best to consult a physician, as this may indicate irreversible damage to the liver.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Bruising a Sign of Alcohol Dependence?

Bruising can be one of the side effects of alcohol dependence, but it’s not the sole cause of it.

Some medical conditions, medications, and skin trauma can also cause bruising.

In other words, bruising alone isn’t enough to diagnose alcoholism, but it can be a sign.

How to Prevent Alcohol-induced Bruising?

The best approach to prevent alcohol-induced bruising is to minimize or stop consuming alcohol in large volumes.

Occasional drinking of fewer than two glasses per day is acceptable, but it’s best to familiarize yourself with signs of alcohol addiction and to prevent developing an alcohol use disorder.

What Does Alcohol-Induced Bruising Look Like?

Alcohol-induced bruising looks similar to regular bruising, but the bruises may be larger than expected for the level of trauma or injury.

The bruises may also appear in unusual patterns or locations, such as on the trunk or back, where major impacts are less likely.

Is Alcohol-Induced Bruising Dangerous?

The bruises themselves aren’t dangerous, but the reason that causes them is.

If minor trauma causes bruises and bleeding under the skin, more serious injuries from accidents or falls can cause more bleeding than expected.

When to Seek Professional Help for Alcohol-induced Bruising?

The inability to stop drinking while being aware of the consequences indicates that you may be developing alcohol dependence.

When that happens, it’s best to consult a professional to prevent the issue from becoming a full-blown alcoholism.

Seek Help for Alcohol Use Disorder from Home…

If you or someone you love suffers from alcohol use disorder or any of its health effects, book an appointment with us at CuredNation.

We value secrecy and anonymity, so rest assured that anything you or your loved one have to say will remain confidential.

Don’t forget to check our blog for more useful insights.


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