A bruise usually happens when part of your body contacts something hard and that contact leaves a mark. Bruises are also known as contusions. There are three types of bruises, but the first stage of a bruise, on the subcutaneous or surface level of the skin, is a minor bruise. A bruise’s classic “black and blue” discoloration happens when blood vessels burst under the skin and are trapped below the surface.
Bruises usually occur when there is trauma to the surface of the skin, such as when you bump hard into an object. They happen to people of all ages and are a natural part of the healing process. Some bruising injuries are so minor that you may not notice it happening until the bruise. More major bruising, or pain from a bruising injury, may require medical treatment. As you grow older, your skin becomes thinner and you’re more likely to have bruised skin.
Some common causes of bruising:
- Sports injuries like being struck with a ball
- Household accidents like bumping into something or falling
- Medications that thin the blood like aspirin or Coumadin
Bruising can vary depending on what caused it. There may also be some tenderness in the area where the bruise forms. Often, in most bruising cases, the skin becomes discolored, becoming black and blue. Bruises can also appear:
- Yellow (often when the bruise is healing)
Many minor bruises are treatable at home and may fade within a few days or weeks depending on the trauma to the area. To help heal a bruised area, try the following options:
- Wrap the bruise with a cloth and place an ice pack on the cloth (not directly on the skin) to reduce swelling (leave on for 15 minutes). Repeat every hour if necessary.
- Rest the bruised area.
- If possible, raise the bruised area above your head to prevent blood settling in the bruised tissue.
- Over-the-counter meds like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or naproxen (Aleve) can reduce the area’s pain.
- Wearing long sleeves and pants can help prevent bruises to your skin.
Should I go to Indigo?
Indigo Health can evaluate your mild to moderate bruises and recommend treatment if necessary.
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s probably best if you get treatment at your nearest emergency department:
- If bruising doesn’t heal after three to four weeks
- If the bruise swells or becomes more painful
- If you’re using blood-thinning medications