Bruises: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

A bruise is a traumatic injury of the soft tissues that results in breakage of the local capillaries and leakage of red blood cells. In the skin, bruising can be seen as a reddish-purple discoloration that does not blanch when pressed upon. This discoloration leads to the classic "black and blue" appearance. When a bruise fades, it becomes green and brown as the body metabolizes the blood cells and bilirubin pigment in the skin. A bruise can sometimes be associated with a temporary raised area in the skin and is usually associated with some tenderness. A bruise is best treated with local application of a cold pack immediately after injury.

  • A bruise is medically termed a contusion.
  • Bruises are typically a result of some degree of injury to the blood vessels in the skin.
  • Easy bruising may be a result of a seemingly insignificant compression of skin or there may be no skin injury recollected.
  • Easy bruising can occur when the blood vessels are weakened by diseases (such as scurvy), medications (such as aspirin, prednisone, and prednisolone), and aging.
  • Easy bruising can also occur because of absent or deficient blood-clotting elements.
  • Local leakage of blood into the skin from the capillaries that occurs spontaneously, without injury, and results in a flat, purplish discolored area is referred to as ecchymosis. Ecchymosis is usually not associated with tenderness.

Other Causes of Bruises

  • Aging Skin
  • Bone Marrow Disorders
  • Platelet Disorders (Thrombocytopenias)
  • Medications (Both Prescription and Nonprescription, Especially Aspirin, NSAIDs, Prednisone)
  • Von Willebrand Disease

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.