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A bruise or “contusion” appears on the skin when it has suffered trauma such as a cut or a blow to the area. The injury causes tiny blood vessels called capillaries to burst, and the blood gets trapped below the skin’s surface.
Bruises can occur on the body at any age. Some bruises appear with very little pain to the area, so they can go unnoticed. As you age, your skin becomes thinner, and the capillaries under your skin become more prone to breaking. This causes older people to bruise easier than younger people.
Certain medications also make it more likely for you to bruise; this is especially the case with blood thinners. You may also notice bruising after receiving an injection or wearing tight clothing.
Some people bruise easily, with little impact to their body; in most cases, this is nothing to be alarmed about. However, if this is a recent development, speak to your physician about potential causes and treatment options.
There are three forms of bruising:
Symptoms of a bruise vary depending on the cause of the bruise. They may include:
Seek medical attention if you have:
Also, see a physician if you have unexplained bruising, bruises that are not painful, bruises that reappear in the same area without injury, or any black bruises on your legs. Blue bruises on your legs may come from varicose veins, but black bruises can indicate deep vein thrombosis, which is the development of a blood clot. This can be life threatening.
Unexplained bruises that appear on the shin or knee may come from bumping the area on a doorframe, bed frame, post, or chair without noticing.
Other common causes of bruises include:
Bruises that develop after suffering a cut, burn, fall, or injury are normal. It is not uncommon to develop a knot in the area of bruising. These bruises form as part of your body’s natural healing process. In most cases, they are nothing to worry about. However, if you have a wound that bruised then reopened and produced pus, clear liquid, or blood, see a physician promptly as these are signs of infection.
If a child has unexplained bruising, take him to a physician to determine a cause. In some cases, unexplained bruising on a child could be a sign of abuse.
Bruises may be treated at home using the following options:
Prevent bruising by being cautious when climbing, playing, exercising, and driving. Use pads on your knees, elbows, and shins when cleaning or playing sports to avoid bruising in these areas. Reduce the risk of getting bruised when playing sports by wearing shin guards, shoulder pads, hip guards, or thigh pads.
Written by: April Kahn
Published on Jul 25, 2012
Updated on Feb 15, 2013
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD
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