Impact or Infect – Does an STD Cause Your Bruises?
The status of your sexual health is an aspect that is often overlooked by many people in the past—paying less attention to what is going on in that region despite the systemic effects that various conditions affecting that region could manifest.
However, with the recognition of its importance in recent years, the necessity of taking care of your sexual health is starting to be highlighted among various populations, eliminating the stigma surrounding their understanding of these conditions and providing multiple avenues to maximize the quality of life of infected people despite the lack of a conclusive medication that could completely eradicate the pathogen.
Due to the inherent diversity of sexually transmitted conditions in our environment, it is difficult to assess and distinguish one condition over the other, especially considering that these conditions mimic the symptoms of other systemic diseases, to begin with. With the overlapping diagnostic signs that could only be conclusively determined using an appropriate laboratory test, people who often aim to self-medicate do more harm than good, and people who misunderstand their symptoms unknowingly progress to a more severe condition due to the lack of proper management.
Bruising, for example, is a condition that is surrounded by a plethora of associated diseases—making it difficult to distinguish the existing condition from relatively similar ones. However, despite the lack of a distinctive feature in bruises alone, each condition would usually be accompanied by a subset of other manifestations that could then be used to narrow down the possible condition causing your manifestations.
Although it is undeniably hard to pinpoint the exact condition without a proper examination from a physician or an appropriate laboratory test from an accredited facility, knowing the telltale signs of an STD that causes bruising could go a long way in ensuring that you are safe from any complications and further progressions, and your partner is safe from whatever condition it is that you are suffering from.
Remember that appropriate testing can be performed immediately and adequately with awareness regarding such aspects, preventing any consequences associated with the lack of a proper response to such manifestations.
In the simplest sense, a bruise is an observed skin discoloration that is often associated with an underlying injury or tissue damage. It is also called by specific references a contusion, and it is rooted in the damage to the blood vessels that are making them leak—creating the reddish, bluish, brownish, and yellowish tinge that everyone is accustomed to seeing. In most cases, a bruise is not necessarily coupled with a wound as this refers to something more internal—unless, of course, the skin breaks open in the area of contusion.
Everyone would generally experience bruising as this is the body’s natural response when the blood vessels are damaged—or rather, this is how the skin behaves when the vessels underneath the cutaneous layer leak. It may occur due to a heavy fall, a sports injury, or when a medical procedure is performed on a particular part of your body. However, it is essential to note that although bruising is normal to occur, excessive bruising can sometimes be associated with another condition affecting your clotting factors or damaging your blood vessels underneath. With the various medical conditions, medications, and hereditary manifestations that could influence this process, it is essential to distinguish one over the other to determine the appropriate management method for such a scenario.
Short answer: not necessarily. Although there is a particular STD that could cause unexplained bruises that do not seem to go away, there are many other conditions that could likewise cause the same manifestation, albeit they are accompanied by a few other symptoms that make them unique and easier to diagnose.
In addition to that, it is also apparent that various factors could affect the way that you are bruised, such as, but not limited to:
As you grow older, the skin becomes thinner and loses its elasticity—a factor that is likewise translated to the quality of your blood vessels. With this, they break off easily, thus causing bruises whenever a significant impact is applied to your skin.
According to various studies, it was found that females tend to bruise easier than males, although there is no conclusive proof or evidence regarding the consistency of this matter.
There are hereditary conditions that mainly affect your body's clotting factors, making it harder to control and manage leakages in your blood vessels and subsequently causing more bruising that likewise lasts longer to heal.
If you feel like you are a potential host of the virus based on an initial examination of your bruises and other manifestations, the following are some of the testing options that you could consult to obtain a conclusive determination of the cause of your condition.
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To properly assess whether an STD is causing your condition that you would have to manage and get tested at the soonest possible time to avoid further transmission, perhaps it is efficient to first look at the other conditions and their distinctive factors to properly narrow down your potential diagnosis before selecting a primary management method. Do note, however, that self-medication is still not recommended due to the possible inaccuracy of your diagnosis without a proper laboratory examination from a certified professional.
Although it is a relatively rare side effect of physical activity and an overworked body, bruising could still manifest after a session of continuous strenuous exercise, mainly when the procedure entails the exertion of your muscles at its limits. For example, if you are performing weightlifting, it is possible to cause tears on your muscle fibers, and perhaps it is even induced to make the muscles stronger and larger in the long run. However, with excessive strain, it is possible to cause intramuscular bruises as your muscle fibers struggle—a situation that is likewise feasible in most resistance training programs. Another case that could result in bruising is endurance running, as it can cause stress fractures within your body—resulting in periosteal bruises which are perhaps the most painful type of bruises and are the ones that take the longest to heal.
With the development of more intricate pharmaceuticals comes the development of a more complex set of side effects, albeit they are rarer with the improved safety features in medication development. If you are experiencing unexplained bruising and are unsure what is causing this particular manifestation, it would be best to first assess the medications you are taking as various pharmaceuticals could precipitate such manifestation.
For instance, if you are taking (specifically, excessively taking or improperly taking) blood thinners or anticoagulants that prevent blood clots, if you are taking anti-cancer agents that are notorious for their side effects, if you are taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen, or if you are taking steroids such as prednisone, then you are at high risk of observing such symptoms within your body.
However, it might also be essential to note that medication overuse is often coupled with a few other symptoms apart from bruising, which may include:
The body is full of specific vitamins and minerals that are essential in enabling the body to heal and form clots—making it vital in ensuring that you are not forming too many clots that could lead to a stroke or are not forming too few that you bleed out internally despite the lack of any open wounds. These vitamins and minerals are essential in keeping the balance of your body’s clotting process—indicating that if any of these factors is off in its amount, it may precipitate specific manifestations associated with your body’s clotting, i.e., excessive bleeding (bruising) or clotting.
Vitamins C and K are two vitamins that are essential in ensuring that your body’s natural clotting process is maintained at its tip-top shape. If a person has a Vitamin C deficiency, it may cause a condition known as scurvy wherein their gums might bleed, wounds will not quickly heal, and the body sustains bruises easily despite the lack of a significant impact. On the one hand, Vitamin K is the vitamin that helps the body form clots to stop the bleeding—making its deficiency a cause of various bleeding and bruising disorders that could be consistently observed. Fret not, however, as these vitamin deficiencies are relatively easy to correct with the proper supplementation, albeit a consultation with your physician is still necessary to determine the appropriate dose.
Von Willebrand Disease is an inherited genetic bleeding disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce sufficient amounts of the Von Willebrand Factor—a clotting factor that helps in the aggregation of platelets for clotting, the protection of other clotting factors, and in generally forming a clot whenever a bleed is observed within your system. There are generally three types of Von Willebrand Disease, namely Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3, differing depending on the severity and how your offspring inherit the condition. The mild type of Von Willebrand Disease, also known as Type 1, is the most predominant among the affected population, and in most cases, the disease remains undiagnosed until adulthood due to the lack of prolonged bleeding cases in childhood or the early infancy stages. It is also possible to develop stomach and intestinal bleeding as a complication of the condition, albeit the instance is extremely rare.
For individuals with the Von Willebrand Disease, the common mild symptoms often observed are chronic nosebleeds, bleeding from mucous membranes and the skin, easy bruising all over the body, and prolonged bleeding even from minor cuts. In addition to that, women are also more affected by the condition due to the bleeding associated with their menstrual period and childbirth—making their case exceptionally more critical than it is for males.
Thrombophilia, on the one hand, is a condition wherein there is also an imbalance in the blood clotting proteins and clotting factors of the body, but instead of causing massive bleeding, it causes the formation of too many clots—making an affected individual more prone to blockage and life-threatening clots within the bloodstream. With that in mind, they are likewise more susceptible to developing deep vein thrombosis or a pulmonary embolism wherein the clots could cause heart attacks and strokes. This condition is even harder to notice because its symptoms vary depending on where the clot is located. From your extremities to your brain and lungs, the symptomatic manifestations of this condition would often vary and depend on the organ affected by the blockage.
Although periodic blood testing must be performed to ensure that you are taking the right amount of blood thinners to prevent a potentially fatal formation of a blood clot within your body, it is still possible to be affected by the subsequent side effects of the medications that you are taking for this condition. Considering that you will be taking blood thinners, you may experience bruising, or you may bruise easily if your medication is not managed, dosed, and administered correctly. Suppose you doubt the location and persistence of a bruise within your body while taking blood thinners for your condition. In that case, it might be essential to consult your doctor to examine your disease further.
Chemotherapy is a procedure performed to prevent rapidly dividing cells within your body from proliferating any further—preventing the development of potentially fatal and critical tumors from all over your body and stopping any metastasis that may occur following an operation process that has been done to remove the previous growth. However, due to the nature of chemotherapeutic treatments to target healthy and rapidly multiplying cells, likewise accidentally, such as your hair follicles and your bone marrow, certain systemic aspects of your health are subsequently affected by your medication.
As such, with its effect on your bone marrow, your platelets, a blood cell that is produced in the bone marrow, are reduced due to the impaired production process within the area. Considering that your platelets are essential in aggregating your cells and forming a scab within an open wound, having a deficiency in your platelet count could result in the typical manifestations of excessive bleeding, i.e., bruises and unexplained bleeding all over your body. According to the National Cancer Institute, bleeding cases during chemotherapeutic treatment could be life-threatening on some level. As such, it is advised that if the following symptoms appear, physician consultation is necessary at the soonest possible time:
HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a condition that severely cripples the body’s immune system for a prolonged period—making the infected host more susceptible to contracting other diseases and infections that may prove to be fatal due to the weakened immunity of the patient, to begin with. It is heavily surrounded by stigma due to the associated negative implications—misunderstanding the actual transmission process of HIV and leading people to avoid infected individuals for fear that they could be infected by simply interacting with an HIV-positive person.
As of this writing, there is no definitive and approved cure for the condition as its mechanism kills off the immune system of the infected person (CD4 cells)—making it challenging to develop a treatment regimen that could simultaneously eliminate the virus and restore the immune system of a previously infected person. In addition to that, a virus assimilates itself into the host cell’s genetic information to establish its pathogenic mechanism—making it harder for medications to reach and specifically target the viral genes of HIV.
In most cases, those who obtained HIV got the condition through unprotected anal or vaginal sex, sharing needles and syringes, drug injection equipment, and blood transfusion, albeit the possibility of obtaining the condition through transfusion is low due to the existence of various screening processes before a blood supply is approved for use in a blood bank. However, when it comes to its transmission process, the most critical stigma that should be eliminated is the supposed transmission of HIV through saliva—which is not true at all. HIV, although it is transmitted through bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal discharge, and blood, is not transmitted at all through saliva—making the stigma about interacting with HIV-positive individuals wholly false and baseless in all aspects. It is also important to note that although HIV is incurable as of the moment, various management strategies could be performed to reduce the viral load of the virus to undetectable levels, allowing infected people to return to their previous lifestyle without fearing that they would transmit the condition to their partners.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were a total of 36,801 conclusive diagnoses performed for HIV in the United States in 2019—showing a 9% overall decrease in the annual number from 2015 to 2019. Overall, there was an estimated total of 1,189,700 HIV-positive cases in the United States by the end of 2019, and about 87% of this number are aware of their existing condition.
Furthermore, according to the CDC, 65% of the total number of HIV-positive cases in the US in 2019 was due to male-to-male sexual intercourse, while 23% of the total HIV diagnoses accounted for heterosexual intercourse cases. The remaining 12% is the amalgamation of multiple other transmission means.
The symptomatic manifestations of HIV would greatly vary depending on how the host’s body would respond to the attack of the virus on the body’s immune system. Although some people would remain asymptomatic while the virus progresses to its more severe state, a certain number of people would also show flu-like symptoms due to the body’s innate defense mechanism—indicating that the body is attempting to fight off infection with its still-intact immunity.
For symptomatic cases, the most common manifestations often observed are flu-like symptoms that would last for a few days or several weeks, depending on how fast the condition progresses and your status deteriorates. These symptoms would usually appear within the first 2 to 4 weeks following infection, and the manifestation is often comprised of the following:
The disease is still at its initial stages during this period, but it is already highly contagious upon systemic contact with the infected bodily fluids. This is commonly known as an “acute HIV infection”—the stage where the viral load of HIV is at its highest following exposure.
If no proper treatment was administered, the disease could then progress into what is known as a “chronic HIV infection”—a state wherein the condition might undergo clinical latency and remain asymptomatic while the virus still replicates within the body, albeit slowly. This stage’s duration could significantly vary depending on the management method employed by the infected individual. However, without the proper treatment, the progression may be faster, resulting in the development of the third and final stage of HIV known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
In this stage, the body’s CD4 cell levels have dropped below 200 cells/mm—making the body extremely susceptible to opportunistic infections and subsequent conditions due to the crippled immune system of the body. In addition to that, due to the lack of a properly functioning immune system, addressing the infections would likewise be harder, and each condition, no matter how minor, could prove fatal.
The general diagnostic process for HIV is relatively straightforward. The process involves collecting a particular sample which could either be blood or an oral fluid sample. The sample would then undergo either a nucleic acid test (NAT) or an antigen/antibody test to determine whether the sample contains any traces of the presence of HIV. The NAT is often used for a more conclusive test due to its ability to tell the viral load of an individual, and it can detect the presence of the virus sooner than other tests. However, due to its more intricate process, the procedure is more expensive than other tests—making it a less favorable option, especially when the resources are relatively scarce.
The management of an HIV condition mainly focuses on containing the infection and preventing further transmission instead of targeting the complete eradication of the virus from the host’s body. Due to the intricate mechanism of the virus, no definitive cure is approved just yet, but infected individuals could be provided with antiretroviral therapy to reduce the viral load to undetectable levels – making the previously infected person safe and non-contagious, even if they participate in sexual intercourse. However, the person must remain “undetectable” for at least six months following the first “undetectable” result to conclusively prove that they are already safe.
To give you a little more insight as to what the risk factors are to contract HIV for sexually active individuals, the following are the risk factors that the CDC has identified as the predominant causes of HIV infections worldwide:
In most cases, bruises are nothing to worry about as it is normal for the body’s blood vessels to break and leak when there is a significant impact on the cutaneous layer. However, if the bruises are persistent, or if you could observe that you bruise easily despite the lack of impact, it might be wise to consult your doctor.
No. You should allow the blood vessels to properly heal instead of rubbing the injury as it could cause more blood vessels to break along the process.
The first thing that you should note is to avoid heat at all costs. Apply an ice pack to reduce the swelling of the area and constrict the blood vessels – preventing further leakage from the damaged area.
Some studies show that Vitamin C supplementation could reduce bruising in individuals with deficiencies, but always consult your doctor beforehand, especially when you have a pre-existing condition that is causing your bruises.
Yes. Due to its possibly asymptomatic nature in its initial stages, it could remain undetected for a decade if no testing is performed.
Yes. Considering that the viral load is highest during the acute stage, avoid all sexual contact with your partner to avoid further transmission.
Yes, and you should remain under treatment for the next 7 to 12 months following the first undetected result, along with consistent undetectable values to be considered safe and non-contagious.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
National Institute of Health
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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