Posted on Aug 1, 2013 in Health & safety
I whacked my shin on the front porch and ended up with a huge bruise. After I finished staggering around and swearing, I started to wonder: What causes a bruise to form, anyhow?
There are actually three kinds of bruises: Subcutaneous (under the skin), intramuscular (inside the muscle) and periosteal (on the bone). From what you described, you’re talking about the first type.
A bruise to the skin — also known as a contusion — is simply blood that is pooling under the skin because some small blood vessels burst due to trauma. The name comes from the old English brysan (“to crush”), and the old French bruser (“to break”).
So when you accidentally skip a step on the front porch or bounce your forearm off the doorknob on your way out of the house, those capillaries can burst, break, or otherwise be damaged — and they leak blood out into the surrounding tissues until the body’s natural clotting can stem the tide.
While bruising is considered a superficial injury because the skin remains intact, it often goes hand-in-hand with other traumas, such as sprains or broken bones. (Bruising that appears visibly on the cheek or along the jawline can also be the result of tooth extraction or other major oral trauma.)
Bruises are very common, and, on their own, typically aren’t of any real concern unless you have a medical condition such as hemophilia or thrombocytopenia.
Some medications, including blood thinners like aspirin or Warfarin, increase the risk of bruising. Along those same lines, bruises are more common on people who have sun-damaged skin, or whose skin is thinning due to aging, because the blood vessels are less cushioned and therefore more susceptible to injury. (Bruising is also often most visible on people with fairer skin tones.)
To minimize the bruising on one of your limbs, gently apply pressure by wrapping the injured area right away (like with an elastic bandage), and elevate it to avoid letting more blood pool.
Otherwise, there’s not much you can do to “fix” a bruise, really. If it’s bothersome, just try RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen. (Ice the affected area for 15 minutes per hour, but be sure not to put the ice directly on the skin.) The US Department of Health and Human Services also found it necessary to mention that you should not attempt to drain the bruise with a needle.
Other than that, your bruise will go away on its own in a week or so. Do try to avoid reinjuring the area… and try to watch those steps next time, okay?
You might also want to see: Why does a bruise change colors?
Photo by Thirteen Of Clubs
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