A bruise is a common injury that results in a discoloration of the skin. Blood from damaged deep beneath the skin collects near the surface of the skin, resulting in what we think of as a black and blue mark.
Causes of a Bruise
People typically get bruises when they bump into something or when something bumps into them.
- Bruises can occur in some people who exercise vigorously, such as athletes and weight lifters. These bruises result from microscopic tears in blood vessels under the skin.
- Unexplained bruises that occur easily or for no apparent reason may indicate a bleeding disorder, especially if the bruising is accompanied by frequent or bleeding gums.
- Often, what are thought to be unexplained bruises on the shin or the thigh, for example, actually result from bumps into a bedpost or other object and failing to recall the injury.
- Bruises in elderly people frequently occur because their skin has become thinner with age. The tissues that support the underlying blood vessels have become more fragile.
- Bruises are also more common in those taking medicine to thin the blood.
Symptoms of a Bruise
- Initially, a fresh bruise may actually be reddish. It will then turn blue or dark purple within a few hours, then yellow or green after a few days as it heals.
- A bruise is commonly tender, and sometimes even painful for the first few days, but the pain usually goes away as the color fades.
- Because the skin is not broken in a bruise, there is no risk of infection.
When to Seek Medical Care
- Call the doctor if the bruise is accompanied by swelling and extreme pain, especially if you take a blood-thinning for a medical condition.
- Call the doctor if bruising occurs easily or for no apparent reason.
- Call the doctor if the bruise is painful and under a toenail or fingernail.
- Call the doctor if a bruise does not improve within two weeks or fails to completely clear after three or four weeks.
- Go to an emergency room if you think you have a broken bone along with the bruise.
- Some bruises, such as those on the head or the eye, can cause a lot of head injury has resulted. On the other hand, if the person cannot remember what happened and you suspect the person may have a eye, you can expect the bruise to travel to the area just under the eye, possibly causing a or ibuprofen because they slow the blood from clotting and may, in fact, prolong the bleeding.
- After about 48 hours, heat in the form of a warm washcloth applied to the bruise for 10 minutes or so two to three times a day may increase blood flow to the bruised area, allowing the skin to reabsorb the blood more quickly. Ultimately, the bruise will fade in color.
Medical Treatment for a Bruise
Doctors have no special treatment for bruises other than the techniques described above: ice packs and later heat, over-the-counter medications for pain, and elevation of the bruised area, if possible.
A suspected victim of domestic abuse may be referred to a social worker.
To prevent a bruise:
- Wear protective gear (like shin guards) while playing contact sports such as soccer.
- Place furniture away from doorways and common walking paths within your home.
- Keep phone and electrical cords away from open areas where you may trip and fall.
- Be sure floors are kept dry and that rugs are slip resistant.
- Keep floors free of clutter.
- Plug in a small night light or use a flashlight if you need to walk to the bathroom during the night.
- If your doctor has prescribed blood-thinning drugs, be sure to have regular monitoring and adjust medications as necessary.
Bruises typically take about two weeks to disappear.