Why Do I Have These Black & Blue Marks?

Overview of bruising

Bruises are also known as contusions. A major characteristic of bruises is blue and black marks. These marks are often associated with trauma. Trauma could be a blow to a particular area of your body or a cut on a certain part of the body. The injury caused by the trauma triggers the bursting of capillaries. The blood traps beneath the surface of the skin, resulting in a bruise.

Anyone can have bruises, at any age. Some bruises are not painful, so you hardly notice them. Bruises may be common, but it is important that you understand your treatment options and whether there’s a need for a medical emergency.

Bruises
Photo Credit: WebMD

What causes bruises?

Bruises are mainly caused by physical injury. Certain underlying conditions make it more common. Some major causes of bruising include:

  • Sport injuries
  • Concussion
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Leukemia
  • Von Willebrand Disease
  • Head injury
  • Ankle sprain
  • Muscle strains
  • Hemophilia A
  • Christmas disease
  • Factor VII deficiency
  • Factor V deficiency
  • Factor II deficiency
  • Varicose veins
  • Deep vein thrombosis

What are the different types of bruises?

There are three major types of contusions. Their classification depends on their location on your body:

  • Periosteal bruises that occur on the bones
  • Intramuscular bruises that occur beneath the muscles
  • Subcutaneous bruises occurring just beneath the skin

Symptoms of bruises

The symptoms vary depending on what’s causing the bruise. The first sign of a bruise is the skin discoloration. In most cases, the affected part of the skin assumes a blue and black color. Contusions can also be purple, red, green, yellowish, or brown. The yellowish color occurs as the bruise heals up.

The bruised area may also feel tender and painful. These symptoms do improve as the bruise heals.

SEVERE SYMPTOMS OF A BRUISE

Other symptoms imply that the condition is more severe. You should see your doctor if you have:

  • Increased bruising when aspirin or other blood thinners are administered
  • There is pain and swelling in the bruised area
  • Bruising that shows up after a hard fall or blow
  • Bruising that occurs alongside a broken bone
  • Bruising that occurs just on its own – without any reason
  • Bruising that doesn’t heal after a month
  • Painful bruising under your nails
  • Bruising with bleeding from your mouth, nose, or gum
  • Bruising with blood in your eyes, stool, or urine.

You should also see your doctor if you have:

  • Black bruises on your legs
  • Bruises that are not painful
  • Bruises that reappear in the same affected area without injury

If you have blue contusions on your legs, they could be due to varicose veins. On the other hand, black bruises indicate deep vein thrombosis. This can be fatal.

How are bruises treated?

You can try some home treatment options such as:

  • Using an ice pack to bring down the swelling. Wrap the pack in a cloth so it doesn’t make direct contact with your bruised skin. Allow the ice to remain on the bruise for 15 minutes. Repeat this on an hourly basis or as needed.
  • Allow the bruised area to rest.
  • You may raise the bruised area above your heart so that the blood doesn’t settle into the bruised tissue.
  • Take an OTC medication, like acetaminophen. Do not take ibuprofen or aspirin. They may cause bleeding to increase.
  • Protect leg and arm contusions by wearing tops with long sleeves and pants.

To prevent bruising

Is it possible to go through life without sustaining a contusion? I think not. But you can always prevent the bruising by applying caution while exercising, driving, or playing.

Use pads on your elbows, shins, and knees when playing sports or while cleaning to avoid bruising. You can also reduce the risk of sustaining bruises during sporting events by wearing:

  • Shoulder pads
  • Shin guards
  • Thigh pads
  • Hip guards

It is normal to sustain contusions occasionally. But the thing is – they can get very uncomfortable at times. But bruises can heal on their own unless they are caused by an underlying medical condition. See your doctor if your bruise fails to resolve or improve within three weeks.

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