Overview on a bruise

Fact Checked

A bruise or contusion is any form of traumatic injury to the skin or underlying tissues. The injury can arise following an accident such as a fall or jarring into or being hit by a blunted object.


Since the exterior skin is not wounded or broken, there is no external bleeding involved. Nevertheless, there is damage to the blood vessels beneath the skin, causing them to rupture and leak blood. This blood builds up beneath the skin.

Initially, the skin appears red or purplish in color but later turn brown, green or yellow as the bruise heals.

Once a blood vessel is damaged, the platelets in the blood gather at the site to form a plug. The platelets mix with certain proteins known as clotting factors to create a fibrin clot. This clot prevents blood from leaking from the blood vessels and secures the platelets together so healing can start.

As the blood starts to coagulate, the skin above the injured site appears discolored. Initially, the skin appears red or purplish in color but later turn brown, green or yellow as the bruise heals.

What are the types?

  • Ecchymosis – this is a flat, purplish-colored bruise that occurs once blood leaks into the upper skin layers
  • Hematoma – this is a mass of clotted or coagulated blood where the area becomes elevated, swollen or painful.

What are the causes?

  • Minor accidents such as a fall, bumping into furniture or dropping heavy objects on the foot or hand
  • The elderly is more likely to bruise due to thinner skin and reduced fat deposited beneath the skin.
  • Women are more likely to bruise than men
  • Using certain medications such as anticoagulants
  • Certain bleeding conditions such as Von Willebrand’s disease and hemophilia
  • Vitamin deficiency especially B12, K, C or folic acid
  • Bruises might be an indication of child, elderly or domestic abuse especially if there are several present

How to manage a bruise

The treatment for a bruise is based on its cause. The bruises from minor injuries or accidents often settle after a few weeks. During the healing process, the bruise might change color, turning from red or dark purple to yellow, green or brown before fading entirely.

Some of the measures that can be used to treat a bruise include the following:

  • Place an ice pack during the initial 24-48 hours after a bruise develops. Remove the pack after 15 minutes and make sure that a barrier is placed between the pack and the skin.
  • While resting, elevate the affected limb to reduce the swelling and pain.
  • After 2 days, start the application of a warm compress on the injured area several times throughout the day.
  • Provide an over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen to alleviate the discomfort or pain.

In case a bruise does not settle after a few weeks or recur without any evident cause, medical care might be required.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on a bruise is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage a bruise, register for a first aid and CPR course with Mississauga First Aid.

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