A bruise, also called a contusion, happens when a small blood vessel just under the skin’s surface breaks and blood leaks into the surrounding tissue.
Certain medical conditions can make you more prone to bruising, especially conditions that cause low levels of platelets or blood clotting disorders, such as thrombocytopenia. You may also be more prone to bruising as you age because your skin becomes thinner and you have less fat under the skin.
Along with a bruise, you might also experience pain and soreness at the site of injury. The bruise will change colors, from red to purple and brown to yellow before it goes away completely.
Some people report that their bruise itches, which is medically known as pruritus, though it isn’t clear as to why.
Certain medical conditions, such as leukemia and liver disease, and some medications, such as chemotherapy, can cause both bruising and itchiness of the skin. Excessively hard scratching of an itch can also lead to a bruise.
In the absence of other conditions, however, it’s unclear why a bruise may itch as it heals. There are some theories, but no definitive conclusion has been reached. Unless you have other symptoms, an itchy bruise is unlikely a cause of concern and will likely go away in a few days.
In the absence of an underlying medical condition, it isn’t clear why a bruise might itch as it heals. Theories include:
- Your skin may be dry if you’ve been avoiding using moisturizers on a tender bruise, which could lead to itchiness.
- As red blood cells break down, they release a compound known as bilirubin. High levels of bilirubin are known to cause itching.
- There’s increased circulation to the damaged area. The circulation is needed to assist with removal of waste products and renewal of cells. Itching and tingling of the skin could be a sign of this enhanced circulation. It may also be related to
how nerves respondto increased blood flow during wound healing.
- Bruising may also increase histamine levels due to inflammation of the area. Histamine is known to cause itching.
It’s also well known that dry skin can become itchy. Dry skin can be caused by health problems, such as diabetes or kidney disease, or by living in a cold, dry climate. Older people tend to bruise more easily and are also prone to having dry, itchy skin.
A bruise can appear to be itchy if the bruise itself was caused by scratching an underlying rash, lesion, or lump caused by something else.
If you scratch the skin too hard, you can cause injury to the skin and bruising. The bug bite and the bruised area will continue to itch until your body stops reacting to the bite. Certain tick species can also cause an itchy rash that resembles a bruise.
Though rare, frequent bruising or a bruise that won’t heal, along with itchy skin, can be a sign of leukemia. Other symptoms of leukemia include:
- pale skin
- frequent bleeding
- bone pain
- swollen lymph node
- weight loss
Inflammatory breast cancer can look like bruising on the breast. Your breast may also feel tender and warm, and you may find a lump on or near the breast. The breast may itch as well, especially near the nipple.
Other symptoms of liver diseases include:
- unexplained weight loss
- yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
- dark urine
- abdominal pain and swelling
Medications, including chemotherapy and antibiotics, may also cause both itchy skin and easy bruising.
If the itchiness is being caused by dry skin, here are some ways to help:
- Apply a moisturizer to the skin every day.
- Avoid taking hot showers. Instead, use warm water.
- Use a mild soap in the shower.
- Try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
- Avoid scratching the area.
Talk to a doctor if you think the bruising and itching is a side effect of a medication.
For an insect bite or rash, try the following to relieve an itch:
- Apply topical anti-itch creams.
- Take oral pain relievers.
- Use antihistamines.
- Apply a thin paste of baking soda and water to the bite.
Avoid scratching a bug bite. Scratching can cause breaks in the skin and lead to an infection.
In most cases, bruises go away on their own without care. The body will reabsorb the blood within a few days. You can apply a cold compress if there’s swelling and pain along with the bruise.
The reason why a bruise may itch as it heals is unclear, but there are a few theories. A bruise that itches as it heals is likely no cause for concern.
Certain medical conditions can cause both itchy skin and easy bruising. If you notice any other symptoms along with itching and bruising, or you think a medication is causing your symptoms, see a doctor. You should also visit a doctor if your body itches and bruises easily and there’s no obvious cause.