What are Skin Bruises and How Long Does it Take to Go Away?

Any type of injury to the skin can cause a bluish-blackish-purplish discoloration or a mark on the skin which is known as bruise. Skin bruise is a result of collection of blood from the damaged blood cells under the surface of the skin. This damage can occur from injury to the skin or the body. Treatment for skin bruises consists of ice application in the initial stages, warm compresses in the later stages, elevation and pain killers. It takes about two weeks for the skin bruises to disappear or to fade away.

What are Skin Bruises and How Long Does it Take to Go Away?

Causes of Skin Bruises

Skin Bruises commonly develop when people bump into something or when they hit something. Some of the common causes why people have a skin bruise include:

  • Some people develop skin bruises or have skin bruising when they who exercise vigorously, such as weight lifters and athletes. Skin bruises form due to microscopic tears in the blood vessels present beneath the surface of the skin.
  • Some people may have unexplained skin bruises on the thigh or shin and they have no idea where they got them from. The most common reason for them is accidentally bumping into a chair or a bedpost and not remembering the injury later on.
  • If there are skin bruises present without any obvious cause, or if they occur easily, then it may be an indication of bleeding disorder, particularly if the bruising is accompanied by bleeding gums or frequent nose bleeds. Elderly people frequently develop skin bruises, as their skin becomes thinner as they age. This results in the increased fragility of the tissues which protect the underlying blood vessels. Skin bruises more commonly occur in individuals who take blood thinning medicines.

Symptoms of Skin Bruises

  • In initial stages, the color of a fresh skin bruise appears as reddish. This will later turn into blue or dark purplish color in some hours. As the skin bruise starts to heal, its color may change to green or yellow.
  • A skin bruise is often tender to touch and can also be painful in the initial days. As the skin bruise starts to heal, its color starts to fade away and so does the pain.
  • As there is no break in the skin in a skin bruise, the risk of infection is almost zero.

Serious Symptoms of Skin Bruises

Immediate medical attention should be sought if the patient is suffering from the associated symptoms along with the skin bruise:

  • If the patient has extreme pain and swelling along with the skin bruise, and if the patient is also on blood-thinning medications, then immediate medical attention should be sought.
  • If it is suspected that the patient also has a broken bone along with the skin bruise.
  • If the skin bruises appear on the skin for no apparent reason.
  • If the bruise appears under the fingernail or the toenail and is very painful.
  • If the bruise on the skin persists even beyond two to three weeks.
  • Bruises in the eye or on the head are a cause of concern.
  • If there is appearance of a “goose egg,” which is a bruise on the head and the patient did not black out and is able to recall the injury, which has caused the bruise. In such a scenario, it is not likely that a serious head injury has occurred. Whereas, in cases, where the patient does not remember what had happened and concussion is suspected then the patient should be taken to the nearest emergency room immediately.
  • If the bruise appears above the eye, then the bruise can also spread to the area beneath the eye, due to the effects of gravity, which results in a black eye. If the patient does not have changes in the vision and is able to move the affected eye in all directions, then the chances of a serious injury are less.

Investigations for Skin Bruises

  • If the bruise is result of an injury and there is no cause to suspect broken bones, then the doctor may not do any tests.
  • However, if the patient has severe pain and swelling with the skin bruise, then x-ray of the affected region can be done to check for any broken bones.
  • If the patient has frequent bruising, which occurs without any obvious cause then blood tests are done to look for a bleeding disorder.
  • If the patient has certain bruises, which follow a specific pattern over a period of time and which are present in various stages of healing, then this may be an indication that the patient is suffering from physical abuse.

Treatment for Skin Bruises

  • There is no special medical treatment for skin bruises. Conservative treatment methods, such as ice packs, heat application, elevation of the affected area and over-the-counter medications are done for relieving the skin bruises.
  • If other serious conditions, such as a fracture or bleeding or clotting disorder are suspected as the cause of skin bruises, then treatment is done accordingly.
  • If the skin bruises are an indication that the patient is suffering from domestic abuse then the patient should be referred to a social worker.

Conservative or Home Treatment for Skin Bruises

Treatment is highly effective for a skin bruise if done immediately after the injury, when the bruise is still reddish in appearance. The following steps can be undertaken at your home for treatment of skin bruises:

  • Cold compresses or ice application can be done to the affected region for about 20-30 minutes. This helps in reducing the pain and swelling along with speeding the healing process of skin bruise. Ice should never be applied directly to the skin and should always be wrapped in a towel before applying to the skin.
  • If there is a large skin bruise on the leg or foot, then it should be kept elevated as much as possible for the initial 24 hours after the injury, which is the acute phase.
  • Pain killers, such as acetaminophen can be taken for pain associated with skin bruise. Medicines, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, should be avoided as they slow down the blood clotting process and may prolong the bleeding.
  • After the acute phase of the injury has passed (48 hours), then heat application can be done where a warm washcloth can be used to apply on the skin bruise for about 10 to 15 minutes about three to four times a day. This helps in increasing the blood flow to the bruised region and allows faster re-absorption of the blood through the skin. Gradually the skin bruise will fade in color.

Prevention of Skin Bruises

  • Protective gear, such as mouth guards, helmet and shin guards, should always be worn when playing contact sports, such as soccer.
  • Electrical cords should not be placed in open areas, as there is a chance of tripping and falling over them.
  • Furniture should always be kept away from common walking paths or doorways to avoid bumping into them.
  • The floors of the home should always be kept dry and free of clutter. The rugs which are used should be slip resistant.
  • Always use a flashlight or a small night light during the night for trips made to the bathroom.
  • If the patient is on blood-thinning medicines, then it is important to monitor the patient and adjust the medications as required.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 25, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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