A lot of alcohol drinkers experience random bruises that seem to appear overnight. You might expect to wake up in the morning with a hangover that includes dry mouth, headache, and upset stomach if you really tied one on, however, bruises are often a surprise. You wonder how you got the bruise. Did you fall? Get hit? Bump into something?
What people may not know is that alcohol makes you more vulnerable to becoming bruised. Therefore, it may not be the tripping, falling or bumping that you may have thought.
What is a Bruise?
A bruise occurs when blood is spilled beneath the skin’s surface. When this happens, bruises are purple or red at first, and then they fade as the blood is absorbed into the body again. Usually, a bruise appears when you have collided with something hard. This can happen when walking into furniture, falling or being hit.
Some people bruise more quickly than others, sometimes when there has seemingly been no trauma to the skin. Bleeding disorders can cause bruising to occur, but if there is no family history of disease, something else may be causing bruises to develop – like abuse of alcohol.
Do You Bruise Easier When Drunk?
What if you don’t have a severe alcohol use disorder to the point of significant damage? Do you still bruise more easily just because you’re drunk? Why do you wake up with more bruises after a night of drinking than you normally do?
The first and most obvious reason is that you may be more likely to bump into things when you’re drunk. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that slows down activity in your brain. It can impair your motor functions, balance, and your ability to judge distance. The same reasons alcohol use can make drinking more dangerous can also make you more likely to bump your elbow on a bar counter or your knee on a coffee table.
When you wake up the next morning, you may notice some aches and pains that show some pretty nasty bruises. Alcohol can also impair your memory, so you may not remember how you got a bruise.
So you may be more likely to bruise, but do you bruise easier when drunk? And does alcohol make bruises worse? Yes, there’s actually another physiological reason for bruising easier with alcohol, and it has to do with how alcohol can affect your blood vessels. Alcohol is what’s called a vasodilator, which means it can relax your blood vessels.
When ingesting alcohol, the blood vessels in the body expand and relax. The expansion of the vessels increases the flow of blood in the body – this includes the vessels that are near the surface of the skin. When there is more blood circulating, there is a higher chance of blood escaping if there is a rupture in a vessel. Even a small bump can cause a rupture in the blood vessels, leading to a red or purple-colored bruise.
So if you bump your body on a hard, blunt surface, your relaxed blood vessels are more likely to release the floodgates. That means you’re more likely to bruise. Since more blood will be released to pool beneath the skin, your alcohol bruises may seem bigger and more intense than your sober bruises.
Are Alcohol Bruises Dangerous?
The big bruises you get from smacking into something like a door frame may be sore for a few days, but minor bumps and bruises aren’t likely to be dangerous. However, the vasodilating effects of alcohol can make injuries more dangerous.
More severe blunt-force trauma can cause significant internal bleeding when you’re drunk. More serious injuries, like falling and hitting your head, falls from up high, or vehicle collisions, can be more deadly to a person that’s drunk. When you consider that people who are intoxicated are more likely to experience accidents and injuries, it becomes apparent that alcohol’s vasodilation effects are an unseen danger of alcohol misuse. Car accidents caused by drunk driving may be even more likely to result in a fatality for people that are drunk when they sustain injuries. Injuries that you might be able to recover from when sober may cause you to bleed out quickly when you’re drunk.
There’s another potential consequence of drinking and alcohol vasodilation. If you’ve ever had surgery, you may have been told to stop drinking 48 hours before. That’s because the vasodilating effects of alcohol can last longer than you think, even after you’ve stopped feeling the effects of alcohol. If you drink before surgery, it can be risky for two reasons. The first is that you’ll bleed a lot, and doctors will have to work hard to make sure you don’t lose too much blood.
This can be extremely dangerous during major surgery. However, even if you’re not going through major surgery, drinking before a minor surgery can be dangerous. Excessive bleeding can obscure the work a doctor is doing, covering the area in blood. If the surgeon was looking for something or repairing something, the surgery may not be successful if they can’t see what they’re working on.
The Liver and Bruising
The liver is the organ in your body that processes all the alcohol you ingest. This is a vital organ that processes the blood that flows through your body, cleaning it of toxins, and then releasing it back into the bloodstream. Your liver continually stores about 10 percent of the blood in your body, so when you drink alcohol, your liver must work harder to process toxins.
The liver does a good job at this, but it has trouble keeping up if heavy quantities of alcohol have been ingested. This is when you may become intoxicated and feel the effects of alcohol. The liver can become damaged and swell, causing cells to die and scarring to develop. This scarring keeps the liver from doing its job – which includes managing blood cells.
Your liver helps the blood in your body clot and move evenly in the blood vessels. When it is damaged and can’t filter alcohol properly, bloodstream health will decline. The decline of healthy blood can lead to bruising.
Does This Signal a Larger Problem?
Severe liver damage occurs with users that drink heavily for several years. The liver will continually be damaged by alcohol abuse, eventually resulting in failure. Excessive bruising that seems to occur for no reason may indicate that the liver is beginning to fail, and medical attention may be needed.
Can Bruising be Managed?
Bruising after drinking alcohol can be very alarming, especially when the bruise appears large and you have no memory of how it got there. However, you do not have to deal with bruises on your skin and causing others to look at you with worry.
Protect the Liver
By protecting the liver, you can keep yourself from appearing bruised and battered. One way to effectively do this is by limiting the amount of alcohol you drink or finding help for alcohol use disorder. This ensures that the liver functions properly and can filter out the toxins in your body efficiently. Liver damage is commonly associated with drinking heavily, so make sure to keep your liver healthy so that it lasts for many years.
Symptoms That Affect You
Alcohol affects the brain, as well as other parts of the body, making changes that cause quitting alcohol to be difficult. Individuals may find that it is much more challenging than they imagined to curb the temptation to drink alcohol even for a day or so. These changes make thinking clearly more difficult and could cause you to miss commitments. You can also experience the following:
- Missing school, work, or social functions to drink
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol
- Craving alcoholic drinks
- Drinking upon waking and before bed
- Feelings of agitation when not drinking
- Continuing to drink alcohol despite consequences
- Engaging in dangerous activities while intoxicated
When Professional Help Is Needed
If you have tried to stop drinking in the past with no success, then it may be time to seek professional help. A certified substance abuse clinician or counselor can help you find out the underlying cause of your drinking and work with you in addressing the issue and curbing your addiction to alcohol. Family members may express concern about drinking habits and behaviors that you engage in while intoxicated.
Even if you do not feel as though drinking is a problem, the bruises may tell a different story. Be sure to keep an open mind and know that your family and friends care about you and your overall health. Coming to terms with an alcohol problem and the damaging effects it has had on your loved ones can be difficult. Yet it is a necessary part of the recovery process.
When detoxing by yourself fails, seek help from medical and addiction professionals that can monitor your detox and ease withdrawal symptoms. Your health will be kept in check by medical professionals who are there to help you recover from your addiction. Staff members work closely with patients to ensure that a comprehensive treatment plan is developed, and recovery is successful.
When it comes to bruises and alcohol, it could be a simple bump that has been forgotten due to the effect alcohol has on your memory. However, it could also be due to liver damage that makes the blood clot less and become more susceptible to escaping from damaged blood vessels. If you notice bruising, be aware that it could be an indicator of a more significant issue.
Alcoholism Causes Symptoms That You Can Feel
Unfortunately, consuming alcohol can change the circuitry in our brain. The changes can make it extremely difficult to curb an alcohol habit, and you may find yourself attempting to cut back on drinking.
Because alcohol use disorder has such a firm grip on people, it can make it incredibly challenging to resist the urge to drink for more than a day or two. The changes in the brain brought upon by alcohol make clear thinking nearly impossible. It makes it hard to stick to commitments, even if you intend to do so.
Additionally, the inability to stop drinking can result in noticeable changes in the way you think and act. The Mayo Clinic highlights other symptoms of alcohol use disorder, which include:
- Using alcohol while engaged in other activities where drinking is dangerous
- When you need more alcohol to feel the same effects
- Ditching work or social obligations to drink
- Cravings for alcohol
- Drinking despite negative consequences
- Feeling nervous, nauseous, or sweaty when you don’t drink
The symptoms indicate that alcohol consumption has become a severe problem. Anyone that is experiencing a variety of these symptoms should seek out the help of medical professionals to gain control of their lives.