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March 20, 2018  |  Login
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

A bruise is an injury caused by a blow or a bump that does not cut the skin but breaks blood vessels underneath the skin. Blood seeps out of these vessels, producing the telltale black-and-blue discoloration, as well as swelling and soreness.

The deeper the bruise, or contusion, the longer it will take to heal. Leg bruises, for instance, can linger for up to four weeks because leg vessels have greater blood pressure than arm vessels.

Bruises also change in color, first starting off red, then becoming blackish-blue, and finally turning yellowish-green. The final color is a sign that the body has worked to remove the dead cells and tissues and replace them with healthy, new cells to restore color to the skin.

Falls, sprains, pinches, and suction can cause bruises. These are occupational hazards for active children who love to run, jump, bike, climb, or skate. People who are anemic or obese tend to bruise easily. Nutritional deficiencies of vitamin C, iron, vitamin K, bioflavonoids, and other nutrients can contribute to easy bruising. Sometimes, unexplained bruising can be a clue that a person's blood vessel walls are brittle or that a child has insufficient blood-clotting factors. Bruising can also signal the onset of serious illnesses such as leukemia or hemophilia.

Parents should have their child's bruise examined by a doctor if

  • The bruise is located on the head or the eye areas.
  • Bruising seems to show up without any apparent cause.
  • A minor bump or blow creates a large bruise.
  • Bruises are located in unusual places, such as the back, the calves, or the backs of the arms.
  • Your child has difficulty talking, walking, or seeing, or appears drowsy and dizzy.

People of all ages should see a doctor if a fever accompanies the bruising or for bruises that do not heal.

Medications such as aspirin and other blood thinners like Coumadin can cause bruising. Check with your doctor if you use one or more of these medications to see if it is related to your bruising.

If your doctor has determined that your bruising occurs as the result of anemia, see the anemia page for more information.

Next: What are the Symptoms of a Bruise

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