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Bruises Overview

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.
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