This patient information and photograph on Solar Purpura is provided by John L. Meisenheimer, M.D. a board certified Dermatologist and skin care specialist based in Orlando, Florida. This information is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice or treatment of a dermatologist or other physician.
What is it? Solar Purpura sometimes called actinic purpura or senile purpura is a common condition of elderly skin. In general terms Solar Purpura can be thought of as a bruise in the
superficial skin. It occurs almost exclusively in the older population, and the older a person gets the more likely Solar Purpura will appear. Approximately 25% of my patients over 70 have some solar purpura. Typically it appears as purple or blue patches on the back of the arms and hands. It can occur anywhere, but it is most frequently seen on the arms hands and legs.
What causes it? As we age, chronic sun exposure leads to changes in the skin. Over decades ultraviolet light damages the connective tissue in the skin and it no longer supports the tiny blood vessels well. Slight trauma to the skin now causes tears in the blood vessels leading to bleeding into the skin. Frequently patients prone to this condition will be unaware of trauma preceding the appearance. Blood thinning agents such as Aspirin and Coumadin tend to aggravate the condition.
Is it dangerous? Solar Purpura is a harmless disorder. It is not related to cancer and it does not involve internal organs.
Can it be cured? The purple/blue discoloration usually spontaneously resolves in 1 to 3 weeks, but residual yellow brown pigmentation may last for weeks or months.
What home care should I use?
- There is some medical evidence that Vitamin K cream will help the solar purpura resolve faster but it does not prevent it. Vitamin K cream recommendations: Formula K Vitaceutical Cream or Vitamin K Cream
- Sunscreens are needed to prevent further damage and thinning of the skin. Click here for my sunscreen recommendations.
- Dry skin is also more easily damaged. Click here for my moisturizer recommendations.
- Protect the skin as much as you can with long sleeve shirts and avoid trauma to the skin.
- Anti-inflammatories such as aspirin and ibuprofen "thin" the blood and make solar purpura more prominent, but ask your doctor before discontinuing these medicines if recommended by him/her.
Will it spread? Once you start noticing solar purpura it will liking continue to be a problem with new areas replacing old. It can occur on any area of the skin, but it occurs only on areas of chronically sun damaged skin, such as the back of the arms and hands.
Is it contagious? Solar Purpura is not contagious and you can not "catch it" from anyone.