Bruise – Causes and Treatment Techniques of Contusion
How many of us have never had bruises? Any person be it a responsible adult or a restless kid, is bound to get bruise once in a while. Whether you are an athlete or a worker employed in an injury prone environment, bruises are just unavoidable in many circumstances.
How bruises are formed?
The smallest blood vessels in the human being are called capillaries. When a blow breaks up these blood vessels located under the skin, it let a small amount of blood to leak into the tissues. This forms a black, blue or purplish mark on the skin known as bruise or contusion. It further changes color as it heals. The healing process will depend on the type of bruise; some people are more susceptible to easy bruising which we will outline below.
Classification of bruises
There are basically three types of bruises based on the location of your body:
- Subcutaneous - when a bruise occurs beneath the skin
- Intramuscular - a bruise that occurs within a muscle
- Periosteal - a bruise on the bones
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Causes - Why some people get bruised easily?
We don’t easily recall bumping into anything, but if someone seems to be bruising frequently, then it can be a cause of concern. Bruising also increases as you age. It is especially common in women whose capillary walls become fragile and skin becomes thin with the age. This makes them more susceptible to injuries. Pregnant women can also get easily bruised.
The medical term for easy bruising is ecchymosis. While ecchymosis increases as you age and lose your protective layer of fat, some other causes are:
Medication and supplements
People who take aspirin or blood thinning medicines for treating conditions such as heart attack or stroke, shouldn’t be surprised by those black and blue marks. Some supplements such as fish oil has similar blood thinning effect.
Low Vitamin C
Vitamin C is crucial for the healing process. If you don’t have enough, you might get bruised easily. You might also notice that the cut and scrapes takes long time to heal.
Some people may have underlying conditions such as blood clotting problem (hemophilia) or some other blood disease. This can put their life on risk if they don’t treat it properly. Call your doctor if you often experience unexplained nose bleeding or your gums bleed a lot after brushing or if some small cut or scrape is bleeding heavily.
- Motor accidents
- Sports injuries
- Someone hitting you hard or being hit by a ball
- Rigorous exercising
- Liver problems
Why women experience easy bruising in pregnancy?
Many women must have noticed easy bruising in pregnancy then they normally do. This could happen because of low blood platelet count simply due to pregnancy. This condition is known as gestational thrombocytopenia.
Symptoms of bruise
The discoloration of the skin is often the most common sign of bruise. But bruises can also be red, green, brown or yellowish. Other severe symptoms include:
- Extreme pain and tenderness in the area of bruise
- Swelling accompanied by pain
- Bruise is painful under the fingernail or toenail
- Bruising accompanied by blood in eyes, urine or stool
- Bruising that accompanies bleeding in your mouth, gums and nose
When to call the doctor?
One should seek medical care if the bruise doesn’t improve within a couple of weeks or if it fails to completely clear off in 3-4 weeks. You should also seek doctor’s help if the bruising occurs without any apparent reason.
How bruise is diagnosed?
If the doctor sees that the injury is a bruise and not a serious issue such as broken bones, he will not perform any tests. However, in cases of swelling accompanied by severe pain, he may want to see the X-Ray of the area to rule out any case of broken bone.
If the bruising occurs more often, the doctor might conduct blood tests to check for any blood disorders.
Treatment of Bruise
If the contusion or bruise is mild, it can heal within a week. If you want to enhance the healing process, there are various medical and non-medical methods to do that.
There are no special treatments for bruise except the over the counter medication acetaminophen (Tylenol) for reducing pain. But aspirin or ibuprofen should be avoided as they might increase the bleeding.
The common terminology for treating injuries at home is referred to as RICE, short for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
- Rest - Getting proper rest is the best way to recover from injury. Further, avoid any activity that would stress the injured area.
- Applying Ice - The cold contact to the injured area is considered a short term pain relief. Applying ice also limit the swelling as it reduces the amount of blood flow to the injured area. Wrap some ice cubes in a cloth and leave it on the bruise for about 15 minutes. Repeat this procedure multiple times a day.
- Compression - For post injury treatment, compression is one of the best ways to reduce swelling and easing pain. For consistent compression, wrap a bandage on the injured area. At times depending on the injury, compression may or may not increase the healing process.
- Elevation of the injured area - If it’s practically possible, raise the injured area above your heart. This elevation keeps the blood from settling into the bruised area and hence, reduces swelling.
Bruises in majority of the cases are only a temporary problem. Your skin usually heals itself and back to life as normal again. But severe symptoms should not be ignored and one must consult an orthopedist in case of broken leg or some other serious injuries.
1. What's a Bruise?(2014, January). read more
2. Kasper DL, et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015 read more
3. Muscle Contusion (Bruise).(2014, March). read more
4. Bleeding Disorders(n.d.) read more