A bruise is a common skin injury that results in a discoloration of the skin. Blood from damaged blood cells 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 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 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 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 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 anxiety.
If a bruise (sometimes called a "goose egg") occurs on the head, but the person did not black out and is able to remember the accident, it is unlikely that a serious head injury has resulted. On the other hand, if the person cannot remember what happened and you suspect the person may have a concussion, he or she should be taken to the nearest emergency room.
If a bruise occurs just above the eye, you can expect the bruise to travel to the area just under the eye, possibly causing a black eye, because of the effects of gravity. As long as you are able to move the affected eye in all directions and do not have changes in your vision, it is unlikely to be a serious injury that requires a visit to the hospital.