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Solar purpura
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Solar purpura

Contributors: Noah Craft MD, PhD, Lindy P. Fox MD, Lowell A. Goldsmith MD, MPH
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Solar purpura (senile purpura, actinic purpura) is a benign form of purpura related to sun exposure. Ultraviolet radiation induces atrophy of the dermis, rendering dermal blood vessels vulnerable to minor trauma. This trauma itself often goes unrecognized, yet it causes leakage of red blood cells into the dermis. This manifests clinically as violaceous macules and patches on the hands and the extensor surfaces of the arms, which persists for several weeks. Solar purpura occurs almost exclusively in elderly individuals, and the effects are more pronounced in those with lighter skin phototypes.


D69.2 – Other nonthrombocytopenic purpura

53751009 – Solar purpura

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Other causes of purpura:

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Below is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.

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Last Updated:09/26/2017
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Patient Information for Solar purpura
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Contributors: Medical staff writer


Solar purpura refers to red blood cells leaking into previously sun-damaged skin. It is usually on the arms and the backs of the hands in older adults. The skin appears to be bruised with dark red to purple coloration. The bruised appearance may not heal for 2 or 3 weeks.

Who’s At Risk

Older adults are most often affected, usually after minor bumps that went unnoticed. Prior overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun weakens the blood vessels, allowing blood to escape under the skin. Solar purpura is more likely to occur in adults with long-term exposure to the sun, and it is most noticeable on people with lighter skin phototypes.

Your chances of developing solar purpura are increased if you are taking certain medications, such as corticosteroids, aspirin, blood thinners, and anticoagulants such as Coumadin.

Signs & Symptoms

Look for dark red-to-purple patches on the arms, backs of the hands, legs, and sometimes face and neck. You may or may not recall bumping the affected area of skin.

Self-Care Guidelines

Solar purpura is a harmless, benign condition. Further exposure to the sun should be prevented by using sunscreen and covering exposed skin.

When to Seek Medical Care

When areas of "bruising" appear without explanation, you should consult your doctor to rule out other, more serious conditions or malignancies, and for advice on managing and healing the affected area.


Although solar purpura is harmless, your doctor may recommend ways to speed up the healing process, and to prevent further damage.
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Solar purpura
A medical illustration showing key findings of Solar purpura : Dorsum of hand, Forearm, Ecchymosis, Skin atrophy
Clinical image of Solar purpura - imageId=2834784. Click to open in gallery.  caption: 'A purpuric patch on the dorsal hand. '
A purpuric patch on the dorsal hand. 
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