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Bruises
 
 
 


 

A bruise is a common skin injury that results in a discoloration of the skin. Blood from damaged blood vessels deep beneath the skin collects near the surface of the skin resulting in what we think of as a black and blue mark.

Bruises Causes

People typically get bruises when they bump into something or when something bumps into them.

  • Bruises can occur in some people who exercise rigorously, 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 nosebleeds 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 Symptoms

  • 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 as with a scrape or cut 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 medication 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 2 weeks or fails to completely clear after 3 or 4 weeks.
  • Go to the hospital's Emergency Department if you think you have a broken bone along with the bruise.

Exams and Tests

If an injury is obviously a bruise and the doctor does not suspect any broken bones, the doctor will probably not perform any tests.

  • If there is swelling or severe pain, the doctor may want to get an x-ray of the area to make sure there are no broken bones.
  • If bruising occurs frequently and for no apparent reason, the doctor may have your blood tested to look for a bleeding disorder.
  • Certain bruises, a pattern of bruises over time and in various stages of healing may alert a doctor to the possibility of physical abuse.

Self-Care at Home

The treatment for a bruise is most effective right after the injury while the bruise is still reddish.

  • A cold compress such as an icepack or a bag of frozen peas should be applied to the affected area for 20-30 minutes in order to speed healing and reduce swelling. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Wrap the icepack in a towel.
  • If the bruise takes up a large area of the leg or foot, the leg should be kept elevated as much as possible during the first 24 hours after the injury.
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be taken for pain as instructed on the bottle. Avoid aspirin because aspirin slows 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 2 or 3 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.

Prevention

  • Wear protective gear (shin guards) while playing contact sports such a 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 anticoagulant medications (blood-thinners), be sure to have regular monitoring and adjust medications as necessary.

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