What Is Solar Purpura?

A Condition Where Bruises Appear on Sun-Exposed Skin

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Solar purpura is a skin condition that causes purple spots or bruises when small blood vessels leak under the skin. It is common in adults over 50. Excessive sunlight exposure is a main cause, so exposed areas like the limbs are most often affected.

Solar purpura can also sometimes develop in the lining of the mouth and the mucus membranes due to the use of certain medications.

While solar purpura is usually not serious, it can be. For example, it is a symptom of leukemia in some cases.

This article discusses the symptoms, causes, and ways to manage solar purpura.  It will help you to consider whether to contact your healthcare provider about your symptoms.

solar purpura

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Solar Purpura Symptoms

Solar purpura symptoms include purple-colored bruises, patches, and spots on the skin. The color can range from a reddish purple to a very dark purple. The condition is more pronounced in people who have fair skin.

The area of the discoloration is well defined, typically not itchy, and ranges between 4 millimeters and 10 millimeters in diameter.

Solar purpura bruises most commonly appear in the areas of the body exposed to the sun, such as the hands, arms, and legs. You also can get the bruises on your face, but it is not common.

Mild symptoms of solar purpura typically clear up on their own.

Causes of Solar Purpura

Solar purpura occurs due to leaking blood vessels under the skin. As you get older, aging skin naturally gets thinner, and blood vessels become weak, leading to more chronic conditions of skin fragility including dermatoporosis.

Some of the causes include:

  • Excessive sun exposure
  • A minor trauma
  • The use of certain medications, such as blood thinners or steroids

For example, Coumadin (warfarin) is a blood thinner often prescribed to older adults. It can cause purpura spots.

Managing Solar Purpura

Most bruises heal by themselves. But when you are older and get a bruise, you also can get small cuts and tears in the area of the bruising. These can be treated like a normal cut. If there is no additional trauma to the bruised area, it will clear up on its own.

Since ultraviolet (UV) exposure is one of the causes of solar purpura, using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing when out in the sun can be helpful.

Although there is no cure, some therapies, such as applying human epidermal growth factors to the skin, may limit the impacts of solar purpura.

Research suggests this may become more important as lifespans increase, with purpura indicating an early stage of fragility linked to dermatoporosis rather than simply being a cosmetic problem.

What Kind of Doctor Should I See for Purpura?

You can discuss solar purpura symptoms with a healthcare provider. They can determine if treatment is needed, or if you're taking a medicine such as Coumadin that should be changed. They may also refer you to a dermatologist (skin doctor). If there's a more serious cause of purpura, like lupus or a blood cancer, it requires different care.


Some of the complications that people with solar purpura may have are skin cuts and tears. Due to weakened blood vessels and age-related thinning skin, the skin can tear and cut easier. If a person with the condition bumps into something, an additional bruise can develop.

Although this condition is known to clear up on its own, at times, new lesions can occur and leave a brown discoloration. This can clear up over months or leave a permanent scar. Solar purpura also may return.

While the appearance of solar purpura may be bothersome, it is not usually a sign of something serious.

A Word From Verywell

Solar purpura is a common diagnosis in people over age 50 that's not typically serious. However, it is important to pay attention to your skin and to reach out to a healthcare provider if you have concerns or experience changes in your skin condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes solar purpura?

    Solar purpura is caused by leaking blood vessels under the skin, usually as aging skin thins and blood vessels weaken. A minor trauma, sunburn, or certain medications can cause the blood vessels to leak, resulting in a solar purpura bruise.

  • What medications can cause solar purpura?

    The blood thinner heparin is the most common cause of drug-related purpura. Other drugs that may lead to purpura bruises include: 

    • Antibiotics, including penicillin and linezolid
    • Chemotherapy drugs
    • Lasix (furosemide), a diuretic
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Celebrex (celecoxib)
    • Statins
    • Sulfonamides, such as sulfasalazine taken for arthritis
  • How do you prevent purpura?

    There's no way to get rid of solar purpura spots, though the bruises typically heal on their own. Makeup or concealer can cover the bruises, with a skin test to check for sensitivity and choice of products as needed. You can prevent further bruises by keeping skin moisturized, hydrated, and protected from the sun.

  • Does solar purpura affect children?

    Solar purpura rarely affects young people. Its incidence in older people is only about 10% or less of those over age 50. Purpura in children that's not related to an injury is more likely to be caused by an autoimmune disorder, leukemia, or other underlying condition.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Purpura.

  2. Dyer JM, Miller RA. Chronic skin fragility of aging: current concepts in the pathogenesis, recognition, and management of dermatoporosisJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(1):13-18.

  3. McKnight B, Seidel R, Moy R. Topical Human Epidermal Growth Factor in the Treatment of Senile Purpura and the Prevention of Dermatoporosis. J Drugs Dermatol. 2015 Oct;14(10):1147-50. PMID: 26461827

  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Drug-induced thrombocytopenia.

  5. Ceilley RI. Treatment of Actinic Purpura. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017 Jun;10(6):44-50. PMID: 28979656

  6. Cedars-Sinai. Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP).

By Yvelette Stines
Yvelette Stines, MS, MEd, is an author, writer, and communications specialist specializing in health and wellness.