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A contusion, or bruise, is an injury to the tissues under your skin. The cause is commonly when something hits you or you bump into object or person.

Symptoms
Following the initial injury, most people experience pain, swelling, and discoloration. Symptoms result from damage to the blood vessels, which allows blood to seep into the surrounding areas beneath the skin.

Contusions usually undergo color changes during the healing process: red to blue or purple, then green to yellow or brown, and back to normal.

Risk Factors
Your age has an effect on the likelihood of contusions. As you get older, your skin becomes thinner. This thinning occurs as the collagen (connective tissue that cushions skin and blood vessels) becomes less dense with age. Without this cushion, your blood vessels are more susceptible to damage. In addition, blood vessels themselves grow weaker with age, making them more prone to injury.

Blood thinning medications also increase your risk for contusions. Prescription arthritis drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (such as aspirin and ibuprofen), and steroids also make you more likely to bruise.

Other risk factors include Vitamin C deficiency and clotting disorders. Vitamin C is essential for collagen formation and wound healing. Clotting disorders, such as hemophilia, impair the body's ability to form blood clots to stop bleeding.

Healing
To treat a contusion, you should first apply an ice pack or a cold compress. Do this for 10 to 15 minutes every two hours. This will help the blood vessels close and prevent blood from leaking out. Next, wrap the area with a firm bandage to control swelling. If possible, elevate the area above the level of the heart to prevent blood from pooling at the injury site.

After 24 to 48 hours, you can use heat and massage to ease pain and increase circulation to the area. This helps speed healing as blood passes through the contusion cleaning away the dead blood cells.

Lastly, Vitamin K treatment will promote break down of the clotted blood at the site. You can find Vitamin K creams at your local drugstore. Simply rub the cream on the skin over the contusion twice a day until the bruise is gone. With the blood clots broken down, your body can reabsorb the dead blood cells faster.

Most contusions heal within a few days to a few weeks. Generally, the further down the body they occur, the longer they take to heal. For example, a contusion to the chest heals faster than one on the leg.

Special Considerations
Most contusions are normal events in daily life and mend easily. In some situations, more attention is needed to ensure your health and healing. You should seek medical advice when:

  • You sustain a contusion from a serious accident.
  • You have a large bruise that limits movement.
  • You bruise frequently and easily.
  • You develop a large painful bruise after surgery.
  • A bruise begins to grow in size and will not go away.
  • You sustain a deep contusion to a muscle, especially the quadriceps (front of the thigh) and the biceps (front of the upper arm). Bruising to these muscles may lead to the serious condition known as myositis ossificans. In this situation, the limb will need to be immobilized and monitored by your doctor.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions concerning current medications you are taking while your contusion heals. Never stop prescription medications without talking with your doctor first.