Ouch! How did that wall get there?
At some point, we’ve all done it. We accidently bump into something unexpectedly, be it a coffee table or a corner of the kitchen counter. And while the immediate pain may subside, you may find yourself with an unpleasant reminder a day or two later when a brand-new, blue-hued bruise pops up. Some people seem to bruise more easily than others, and it might make you wonder: Can you do anything to prevent bruising?
The answer is yes and no. Read on to discover the essential basics on bruises, and what you may be able to do to minimize them.
What is a bruise?
In most cases, a bruise forms when capillaries, those small blood vessels found near the surface of your skin, are broken. This can happen from impact due to various traumas, like a collision or a fall. Bruising can also be the result of procedures like medication injections, for example. Certain medications and supplements that reduce your blood’s ability to clot properly, like aspirin, antiplatelet agents, and anticoagulant medicines, or dietary supplements like fish oil and gingko can also result in bruising. On the surface level, topical corticosteroids that are used to treat skin conditions like eczema, allergies, and asthma, can thin the skin to varying degrees, also making you more prone to bruising.
When capillaries are broken, they leak blood, and that’s what causes both the tenderness and the black and blue appearance. Over time, the leaked blood is absorbed by your body, and the bruise disappears. Most bruising happens on the arms and legs, which you’re more likely to accidentally injure, but a blow to any part of the body can cause bruising.
How long do bruises typically last?
It takes time for your body to heal a bruise, and you can observe the healing process as it happens.
When you knock into something, your skin can look a little red. That’s the blood collecting beneath your skin. Within a day or two, the bruise will turn blue, purple, or even black. Bruises change color as your body breaks down and absorbs the leaked blood. That’s why you’ll see darker colors when you first notice bruises and lighter green and yellow colors usually somewhere between five and 10 days after the bruise first develops.
Seriously, can I prevent bruising?
Fortunately, there a few ways to help speed up your body’s healing process if you do get a bruise.
If your bruise is from direct contact with something:
First, use a cold compress to help reduce the size of the developing bruise. An ice pack, bag of frozen vegetables, or bag of ice cubes will decrease the amount of blood leaking from the broken capillaries, and it will help reduce swelling and inflammation as well.
Whatever you use, be sure to use a thin towel or cloth to prevent it from touching your skin directly. Leave your compress on the injured area for 10 minutes, and repeat this process a few times for the next two days.
Second, use elevation to keep blood from pooling. This can help reduce swelling and minimize the size of your bruise. Try to position the bruised area so that it’s higher than your heart.
If your bruise is especially tender:
Over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen can be helpful in managing your pain. It won’t reduce the bruise or help it heal faster, but it will help reduce pain associated with it.
You should also try to rest the bruised area if you can. A warm bath to let the bruised area soak will be relaxing and beneficial.
If your bruise is from an injection:
Try to avoid taking anything that can cause blood thinning about five to seven days before your appointment. Over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin should be avoided if possible. Depending on the type of injection, your doctor may have additional suggestions to minimize thinner blood and bruising.
Cold compresses, resting the area of injection, and elevating the bruised area will also help the healing process. Other supplements such as oral arnica tablets, may also be helpful. Some people also advise eating pineapple, which contains bromelain, and may also help reduce bruising.
While most bruises aren’t serious, you should consult your doctor in these situations:
- You’re experiencing very painful swelling in and around the bruise.
- You have frequent bruising that seem to come out of nowhere, especially bruising that appears on your back, face, or trunk.
- You notice a lump over the bruise.
- You’re experiencing unusual and abnormal bleeding somewhere else (nose, gums, or in your urine or stool).
These can be symptoms of problems with platelets or certain proteins that help your blood clot properly.
What to remember
Most bruises aren’t serious, and they’ll disappear completely within about two weeks. To minimize bruising, it’s best to elevate the injured area and apply ice immediately after impact. Preventive action is the best way to avoid bruises, so consider de-cluttering household items, and use safety gear if you’re doing something that could be harmful to your body.
If you have questions or concerns about your bruises, the best advice is to speak with your doctor.
Jessica Timmons has been a writer and editor for over 10 years. Following the birth of her first son, she left her advertising job to begin freelancing. Today, she writes, edits, and consults for a great group of steady and growing clients as a work-from-home mom of four, squeezing in a side gig as a fitness co-director for a martial arts academy. Between her busy home life and mix of clients from varied industries like stand-up paddleboarding, energy bars, industrial real estate, and more, Jessica never gets bored.