A bruise (or contusion) is a soft tissue injury that happens following a blow to the body. Capillaries beneath the surface of your skin rupture and leak blood into the tissues. Usually, a bruise will go away on its own. There are times, however, when a bruise could indicate a serious condition that may need medical attention.
A bruise can be considered serious for the following reasons:
- No improvement after two weeks — Keep an eye on your bruise. Regular bruises change colors: red to purple, then fade from green to yellow in about two weeks. It may be a sign of a more serious condition if your bruise lasts longer.
- It grows and becomes firm — If your bruise does not shrink, but becomes firm and grows, a hematoma may have formed inside the tissues. Your body may have reacted to the trauma by walling off the blood clot. If this happens, your doctor may need to drain your bruise.
- It becomes firm and tender — If your bruise feels firmer and more tender then it did when it first occurred you may have a condition known as ossification. This condition can only be diagnosed by X-ray due to calcium deposits that form in the wounded area.
- You develop bruises easily and for no apparent reason — Developing bruises easily can be a sign of something more serious including:
- Your diet may be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals (vitamin C, iron, and vitamin K).
- A sign you are anemic.
- Childhood leukemia or other cancer.
- You are unable to move a joint — This could indicate a bone bruise. If you have a bone bruise near a joint your doctor may recommend that you limit activity to avoid a condition called post-traumatic arthritis.
- The bruise is located close to your eye — A bruise near your eye is called ecchymosis, or a black eye, and can be serious if you have difficulty seeing or moving your eyes.
Bruises Can Happen for Various Reasons
Adults and children can develop bruises for various reasons: bumping into things, falling, or when pressure is applied to a specific body part. Different people get bruises for different reasons:
- Athletes — People who exercise vigorously can develop microscopic tears in the blood vessels under their skin which can lead to bruises.
- Elderly people — Elderly people develop bruises more easily because the skin becomes thinner with age and underlying tissues and blood vessels become more fragile.
- Infants — Infant bruising can happen as a normal part of the birthing process, or can be caused by forceps used by the doctor to remove the baby from the birth canal (called a forceps delivery). Forceps can sometimes result in more serious injuries.
- People who take blood thinners — Bruises are more common for patients who are on blood thinner medication.
- People with bleeding disorders — People with hemophilia or who have inherited Von Willebrand’s disease will have bruises that appear for no apparent reason or happen easily.
Bruises usually go away on their own. However, if you bruise easily or have bruises that do not fade after two weeks, contact your doctor. If your baby experienced serious injuries following a forceps delivery, consult a lawyer experienced in birth injuries.