Most people get bruises occasionally, from children to seniors. Bruises or contusions as they are also known may occur after an accident, such as a fall, or from bumping into or being struck by a blunt object.
Usually a bruise, which is marked by bleeding into the skin of the bruised area, is nothing to worry about and eventually heals on its own and the skin discoloration disappears.
“Tiny blood vessels beneath the skin can be damaged by even a small impact, such as bumping into a coffee table," says Dr. Bradley, who specializes in family medicine. "While bruises can be challenging to treat, there are home remedies that may speed up healing and minimize their appearance."
Here are six things you need to know about those black-and-blue marks:
A bruise occurs when small blood vessels under your skin bleed. Since the skin isn’t broken, the blood leaks out into the space around the vessels. This pooling changes the color of the skin above the injury. At first, the skin is red or purple, but progresses to yellow or green before healing completely.
A flat, purple-colored bruise, such as a black eye, is called an ecchymosis. A swollen, painful, raised lump is called a hematoma. Hematomas form when clotted blood develops as a lump under your skin. An example of a hematoma is the proverbial goose egg on your head.
At the first sign of a bruise, put a bag of frozen veggies or an ice pack wrapped in a towel on the injured area. Leave it there for 15 to 20 minutes, remove it for about 30 minutes and then put it back on. Try to do this for a day or two, several times per day.
Rest the injured limb and raise it above your heart. For example, if you bumped your calf, prop up your leg to keep blood from pooling. This will help reduce swelling and keep the bruise from spreading.
After the first two or three days, apply a heating pad or warm cloth to the bruise. You can take ibuprofen or acetaminophen if necessary. According to Dr. Bradley, heat helps boost circulation and increase blood flow and will help to clear away the trapped blood after the bruise has already formed.
Vitamins K, C and B12 help your blood clot, so if you lack these in your diet, you may bruise more often. Citrus fruits can increase your vitamin C, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach are a good source of vitamin K. Vitamin B12 can be found in fortified breakfast cereals, eggs, milk, fish, meat and poultry.
“There is no magic trick to prevent or erase bruises,” says Dr. Bradley “Most will heal within two weeks, and you’ll forget you even had an injury.”
Check with your primary care doctor if you feel you are experiencing excessive bruising in places you don’t normally get them, or if the pain is severe. In rare cases, excessive bruising could indicate an underlying condition.