Bruising: Symptoms, Conditions, and Treatment

Medically Reviewed By Darragh O'Carroll, MD

Bruising is a common response to various conditions, from mild injuries to blood disorders. Some cases of bruises can be relatively harmless, whereas others may need medical care. Bruising results when capillaries, small blood vessels, become damaged and cause small blood leaks into surrounding tissues of the body. This causes the typical skin discoloration and inflammation associated with bruises.

Medical professionals may refer to bruises as “contusions.”

This article discusses bruises, including their types, symptoms, and causes. It explains the treatment and prevention of bruising, as well as possible complications. Finally, this article answers some frequently asked questions about bruising.

Types of bruises

An older adult stands in a dress showing mild bruises on the lower legs.
Alison Winterroth/Stocksy United

Damage Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to blood vessels and tissues may cause different types of bruises, including Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

  • skin or subcutaneous bruises
  • muscular bruises, which may affect the muscle and connective tissues
  • periosteal or bone bruises
  • organ bruises

You may also hear the term “internal bruise.” This refers to bruising inside the body rather than in the shallower layers of the skin. Internal bruises include muscular or organ bruises.

Internal bruising may be very painful and can be serious or require medical care.

Symptoms of bruising

Symptoms of bruises can differ depending on their underlying cause and severity. Typical symptoms of bruising include:

  • skin discoloration
  • tenderness or pain
  • swelling or inflammation

Bruising may appear as one singular bruise or multiple, smaller bruises known as petechiae or purpura. Bruises may appear quickly or take a few days Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to develop visibly.

Bruising may also accompany other symptoms related to the underlying cause. For example, aplastic anemia that causes bruising may also cause fatigue.

Bruise staging

The appearance and coloring of a skin bruise changes while it heals. The coloring of bruises can also depend on your natural skin tone.

Typically, bruises start with a reddish color before turning to blue or purple tones. The bruise may then lighten or turn yellow to green before fading.

These color changes may be less noticeable or different on dark skin. Instead, you may notice that a bruise appears discolored or darker compared with the surrounding skin.

For most bruises, the healing process lasts 2–4 weeks. However, some bruises may take months to fade completely.

Causes of bruising

A few mild skin bruises are common, especially in places that are easily knocked.

Physical injury is a typical cause Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source of all types of bruising. Severe injuries may cause bruising as a result of further damage, such as fractures or broken bones.

Additionally, many medications and supplements can cause excessive bruising. If you notice new or persistent symptoms of bruising while taking medications or over-the-counter (OTC) supplements, contact your doctor. Do not make changes to any prescribed treatment plans without your doctor’s advice.

Other factors, such as older age Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , may increase your risk of bruising.

Bruising as a symptom of illness

If you cannot link a bruise to a known injury, an underlying condition may be the cause. Conditions that may cause bruising include:

Bruising is also a frequent symptom of conditions that affect the blood. Blood conditions that may cause bruising include:

Learn more about blood disorders.

When to seek medical help

In some cases, bruising is a symptom of a condition that requires emergency care.

Seek emergency medical care or call 911 for anyone with any of the following symptoms:

Call 911 if you notice petechiae on the skin. These are red, purple, or discolored dots that appear on the skin from bleeding. Petechiae may be a symptom of meningitis or other serious conditions.

Read more about when to seek help for meningitis symptoms.

Also contact a doctor promptly for any of the following symptoms:

  • unexplained bruising, or bruises that do not appear linked to a known physical injury
  • increased number or frequency of bruises
  • bruising more easily
  • bruises or wounds that are slow to heal or cause symptoms that worsen
  • bruising alongside other symptoms of illness, such as fatigue or itchiness
  • bruising that appears while taking medications or supplements
  • unexplained bruising in unusual places, such as:
    • face, head, or ears
    • chest
    • back
    • buttocks
    • hands

Read more about bruising easily.

Treatment for bruises

Mild bruises from injury may heal without treatment or improve with at-home care.

General care for bruising and injuries includes:

  • resting the affected area and avoiding placing weight on it
  • taking prescription or OTC pain relief or anti-inflammatory medications
  • wearing a brace or splint
  • using mobility aids, such as crutches
  • eating a balanced diet that meets your macronutrient and micronutrient requirements
  • avoiding smoking

For severe bruising or bruising resulting from an underlying condition, your doctor may prescribe further treatment. Treatment plans will aim to both alleviate symptoms while you heal and treat the underlying condition.

How to get rid of bruises

Home care to help alleviate or get rid of bruises includes:

  • raising the affected area above heart level to reduce swelling
  • applying a cool compress to the affected area:
    • wrap ice or a cool pack in a clean cloth
    • place the compress on the bruise for no more than 15 minutes at a time

How to prevent bruising

It may not be possible to prevent bruising. However, taking the following general precautions to avoid illness and injury may help you avoid new bruising:

  • avoid trip hazards
  • wear protection such as helmets or knee pads
  • follow treatment plans as prescribed

To reduce the severity of a bruise, it may help to raise the affected area and apply a cold compress after an injury.


Darragh O’Carroll, M.D., has reviewed the following frequently asked questions.

Where do leukemia bruises appear?

Leukemia bruises can appear anywhere, but tend to develop in unusual places. The Leukaemia Care charity states that unusual places for bruising include:

  • back
  • chest
  • legs
  • hands
  • face and head
  • ears
  • buttocks

Can a bruise turn into a blood clot?

Sometimes, a bruise may turn into a blood clot, depending on the underlying cause of the bruise. For example, bruises caused by medications, bleeding disorders, or leukemia may cause blood clots.

If you suspect that you have a blood clot or other complications from a bruise, contact your doctor immediately for advice.

How do I know if I have a bruise or blood clot?

Bruises and blood clots can cause similar symptoms of discoloration, swelling, and pain. Deep vein thrombosis, a condition caused by blood clots, may also cause asymmetrical swelling and a feeling of warmth to the skin.

However, you may not be able to tell if you have a bruise or a blood clot, particularly if it is an internal bruise. Contact your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.


Bruising occurs when capillaries become damaged and leak small amounts of blood into surrounding tissue. This can cause bruises in the skin, muscle, bones, or organs.

Mild bruising is common after an injury or blow. Mild bruises can heal on their own or with at-home care. Severe bruises or bruises resulting from underlying conditions may require further treatment.

Seek emergency medical care for severe symptoms of bruising or if you also experience difficulty breathing, fever, or difficulty moving. Contact your doctor if you experience mild bruises that persist, become more frequent, or are unexplained by injury.

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Medical Reviewer: Darragh O'Carroll, MD
Last Review Date: 2023 Feb 15
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