Tell us about your symptoms and treatment experience. Take our survey here.

Steroid Bruising and Those Nasty Skin Tears

COPD is far from funny. We often have one great day, and the next day are struggling to breathe.

This constant struggle leaves our thoughts scrambling and keeps us off balance most of the time. Our doctors give us rescue inhalers to use during these episodes, but they come with their own set of problems.

They cause our skin to be thin and our hearts to race, leading to steroid bruising and skin tears.

Bruising and skin tears from steroids

Let's look at why this bruising and tearing could be happening, as well as how to treat it.

Improper use of inhalers

When given inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) by doctors, we are not often shown how to use them properly. This improper use of puffers or inhalers can lead to less medicine in the lungs and more in your mouth.

This is often the cause of the residual purple bruising on your arms and hands. It can be unsightly and slightly embarrassing because they are not easily covered. They become more unsightly when they tear and cause open sores.

Not as common, but on occasion, you will get these marks on your legs called tattooing.

Over scratching

These marks turn up at the most unusual times. It often seems like there is no good reason for them, but just scratching an itch can bring out these awful things.

I often get an itchy feeling deep under my skin. The itch is hard to ignore, and to scratch, it produces purple blotches.

Once they appear, it is necessary to take gentle care not to aggravate this area because the continued itching can cause skin tears.

Having a small tear in the skin

Once the skin has torn, we have another problem with our hands. It is important that you treat these tears with kit gloves because now you have opened an area that is susceptible to infection.

Your healthcare provider or pharmacist can recommend a non-irritating soap for the open wound. I prefer a spray, if possible, as opposed to a liquid that needs to be rubbed on.

Be sure to wash your hands before touching the tear and remove any jewelry from your hands. They can be germ magnets.

Taking care of the skin

Once the tear is cleaned, gently push the skin back in the direction it tore from. It is probably not painful to do this, but try to be very gentle with it to not cause any more damage than there already is—the type of bandage you choose matters. Make sure when taking it off to pull in the direction of the tear.

Taking care of ourselves

It may seem like no big deal, but it’s important to remember that any trauma on the body can become an assault. Too many times, we are not prepared for what happens, and we ignore self-care.

Any open wounds like this should be taken seriously. It doesn’t mean you need to go to bed for the day, although that is an option if you want to.

Rather it means that you should be vigilant and aware of what is happening. Keep a close eye on how your wound is healing, and be prepared to seek medical advice if necessary.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 7th, 2024, Barbara Moore passed away. Barbara’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Are you able to tell when you’re having a COPD exacerbation?