A bruise is dark discolouration of the skin caused by blood seeping under the skin after small blood vessels near the surface of the skin have been broken. As the bruise heals, the body breaks this blood down and reabsorbs it, turning the area a typical greenish-blue. Bruises are more common in people who are on treatment to prevent blood clots (warfarin, coumarin, heparin or aspirin).
- Change in colour of the skin (red, purple or black)
Get help immediately if:
- There is a bruise as a result of an injury to the loin or flank, and blood is present in the urine. This could indicate injury to the kidneys or other organs.
- The bruise is the result of a serious fall from a tricycle, bicycle or any other traumatic accident (a jungle gym tumble, for example). Your doctor may want to check for less obvious injuries.
- Head injury is followed by a bruise. You banged your head and have a bruise behind the ear; it may be a sign of a skull fracture.
- Most bruises are relatively minor and will get better on their own over a period of about ten days.
- If the bruise is quite large and swollen, then you can apply ice packs to reduce the swelling. This will also relieve the pain. Make an ice-pack by wrapping ice or frozen peas in a damp cloth. Don’t put it directly on the skin as this could cause damage. Put the ice-pack on for 10-20 minutes every two hours for the first 24 hours and every four hours for a further 24 hours.
- Elevate the area if the bruise is on a leg or an arm to reduce swelling.
- A pain killer such as paracetamol can be used if needed.
Call your doctor if:
- A bruise that doesn’t fade in 14 days.
- The person is in pain for more than 24 hours or if pain on the site of the bruise gets worse; this may be caused by a broken bone.
Reviewed by Dr Elmin Steyn
Mediclinc and ER24