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Bruises form when small blood vessels under the skin tear or rupture, most often from a bump or fall. Blood leaks into tissues under the skin and causes the black-and-blue colour. As bruises (contusions) heal, they often turn colours, including purplish black, reddish blue, or yellowish green. They usually heal within 2 to 4 weeks. Sometimes the area of the bruise spreads down the body in the direction of gravity. A bruise on a leg usually will take longer to heal than a bruise on the face or arms.
Most bruises aren't a cause for concern. They will go away on their own. Home treatment may speed healing and relieve the swelling and soreness from bruises that are caused by injury. But severe bruising, swelling, and pain that start within 30 minutes of an injury may mean a more serious problem, such as a severe sprain or fracture.
If you bruise easily, you may not even remember what caused a bruise. Bruising easily doesn't mean you have a serious health problem, especially if bruising is minimal or only shows up once in a while.
In some cases after an injury, blood collects and pools under the skin (hematoma). This gives the skin a spongy, rubbery, lumpy feel. A regular bruise is more spread out. It may not feel like a firm lump. A hematoma usually isn't a cause for concern. It's not the same thing as a blood clot in a vein. And it doesn't cause blood clots.
Bruises that don't seem to be caused by an accidental injury may be caused by abuse. It's important to consider this possibility, especially if the bruises can't be explained or if the explanations change or don't match the injury. Report this type of bruising, and seek help to prevent further abuse.
Blood spots under the skin may be either purpura or petechiae. Purpura might look like bruises, but they aren't caused by an injury as most regular bruises are. Petechiae don't look like bruises. They are tiny, flat, red or purple spots in the skin. But they are different than the tiny, flat, red spots or birthmarks (hemangiomas) that are on the skin all the time.
Some people have sudden unexplained bruising or blood spots under the skin, or they may suddenly get bruises more often. This may be caused by:
Medical treatment for abnormal bruising or blood spots focuses on preventing or stopping bleeding, changing or adjusting a medicine that may be causing the bruising, or treating the medical problem that is causing the bruising.
If the skin is injured over a bruise, be sure to watch for signs of a skin infection.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Abnormal bleeding means any heavy or frequent bleeding or any bleeding that is not normal for you. Examples of abnormal bleeding include:
When you have abnormal bleeding in one area of your body, it's important to think about whether you have been bleeding anywhere else. This can be a symptom of a more serious health problem.
Many prescription and non-prescription medicines may reduce your blood's ability to clot and cause bruising or bleeding under the skin. A few examples are:
Symptoms of infection may include:
Symptoms of serious illness may include:
Symptoms of serious illness in a baby may include the following:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
You may be able to use home treatment to help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness.
It's important to rest and protect the bruised area.
Ice will reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice or cold packs right away to prevent or reduce swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
Compression, or wrapping the bruised area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help reduce swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, because that can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage.
Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling. Prop up the bruised area on pillows while you apply ice and anytime you sit or lie down.
Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. But don't massage the bruised area if it causes pain.
Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed. If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
If you'd like, apply a natural health product directly to the bruise.
Don't smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.
If you need to use a wrap for more than 48 hours, you may have a more serious injury that needs to be checked by a doctor.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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