None of us likes a bruise, but bruising affects all of us at some point. Sometimes we can identify a cause, and at other times a bruise just seems to arise. Thankfully, bruising does not need to last as long as you might think and there are a number of approaches we can take to minimize the visible presence of a bruise and its duration.
What is a bruise?
Let’s start by defining bruising. Bruising is a condition whereby the skin turns a bluish, or even black color, sometimes with some yellowing at the edges. It arises on account of broken blood vessels that are subcutaneous – beneath the skin – and it is almost always the case that bruising comes after an injury or localized trauma on that part of the body.
Bruising is also often referred to medically as a contusion, so be aware of this word when you read about bruising in other articles on Healthnile.
When you get a bruise, what is happening is that small blood vessels are breaking and leaking their red cells into the surrounding tissue. This then leads to the strange discoloration we see, as this is the result of the cells being broken down and released from the area of the body where the initial injury has taken place. Bruising is not without pain, and some bruises can be extremely sore on the point of the injury.
Types of bruises
Though bruising can take many forms and shapes on different bodies, and though different people can be more or less susceptible to a bruise, in reality there are two core types of bruise.
These are what are called extravascular bruises and intravascular bruises.
Extravascular bruises occur when small blood vessels break just beneath the skin’s surface. This is the main form of bruising and it is most likely that your bruising is an extravascular bruise. These bruises are usually the typical blue or purple in color and will tend to cause some minor swelling. In most people these bruises will come from something like a knock against a hard surface, but not one that is necessarily overly painful much beyond the initial knock.
Intravascular bruises, on the other hand, will form when larger blood vessels break deep in the skin’s tissues. These can look slightly different and will more usually take the form of larger reddish or purplish blotches. They may be a bit strange to look at.
Causes of bruises
Most bruises will have a cause you can likely recall. It may be some physical trauma to the body, which in medical speak means anything that affects the body and causes a bit of harm or distress to a part of it. Most ‘traumas’ that lead to bruising are relatively minor in scale. You may have fallen, bumped a bit of your body, or had a knock in sports, for example.
However, it is also the case that some bruising comes without an external agent causing it.
It’s also possible for certain medical conditions to cause bruises, such as bleeding disorders, vitamin deficiencies, and sometimes medications or other treatments can cause a bruise to erupt. In rare cases, it may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, so if you see repeated bruising arising on your body that does not seem to have an obvious cause, it’s important to check with your doctor.
Understanding the cause of bruises is really the first step to learning how to get rid of them, so do what you can to be clear about causal factors.
Risk factors for bruises can vary from person to person, most usually in terms of lifestyles. For example, are you more likely to have a bruise if you take part in contact sports, or if your job is physical and involves lifting.
However, age is a big factor, and if you are older or are ill already, you may be more likely to bruise. Perhaps you fall more often than you used to? Or perhaps your skin is weaker than it used to be and therefore more susceptible to bruising? More elderly people and very young children often find it harder to break down the blood that collects under the skin, meaning bruises may be more pronounced. This does not necessarily mean a greater health risk, but age can make it likelier the bruising lasts, so you want to be aware of what you can do to alleviate the effects of aging.
Home Remedies for Bruises
Cold compresses can be useful, as they can constrict blood vessels in the area, which helps to decrease the amount of bruising. Additionally, the cold temperature can provide relief from the pain. Make sure the compress does not stay on the skin too long and ensure that you do not use water that is excessively cold. Remember that the skin will respond to even quite minor changes in temperature, so you don’t need a freezing compress for what is just a modest bruise.
Arnica has been around for centuries as a remedy. It is a well known herbaceous plant whose flowers contain anti-inflammatory components that make it a highly effective remedy for bruises, sore muscles, inflammation, and even swelling. It is less well known nowadays than it used to be and this is a pity, as it can really make a difference to healing processes. Do not be afraid to try it.
When applied to the affected area, arnica can help reduce the appearance of bruises and can promote healing beneath the skin where the bruise has started. As an ingredient, it comes in a number of easily available over-the-counter (OTC) creams, ointments, and gels, so it’s easy to apply to bruises and doesn’t intrude into your daily routines.
Vitamin C is a minor natural miracle in so many ways. Not least because it helps stimulate the body to produce collagen. Collagen is an absolutely essential healing agent. It is necessary for wound healing and for maintaining strong, healthy skin tissue. By boosting your Vitamin C intake, you are therefore helping the body with its tissue healing processes and limiting the duration of a bruise. A body that does not have enough Vitamin C will certainly take longer to see bruises disappear than one that is well nourished.
In addition, a further benefit is that Vitamin C has superb anti-inflammatory qualities. This means that, in addition to helping repair the skin, it will also help to reduce the swelling and pain associated with bruises. To ensure your intake is strong, eat enough oranges and apples or drink a couple of glasses a day of freshly squeezed fruit juices. As Vitamin C is not stored in the body, you can readily eat as many fruits and vegetables as you like, since the body will flush out excess once it has used what it needs.
Like arnica, comfrey is less well known today than it used to be. It really should be better known, as it is a fine natural remedy to assist in the limiting of bruises. It has anti-inflammatory qualities and high levels of allantoin. Allantoin is a chemical that helps stimulate healing and that reduces bruising, so it is an important element of any bruise-reduction approach.
Comfrey can be taken as a supplement in pill or capsule form, or you can use a topical cream or ointment made from the herb, so it is readily usable and will not impede your daily routines.
Generally speaking, most people find that the topical option is the most effective for treating bruises, as it can be applied directly to the bruised area.
All fruit juices are good for their Vitamin C benefits, but pineapple juice is especially helpful. This is because it contains high levels of enzymes that promote healing and reduce inflammation, and, at the same time, it also contains a compound called bromelain that can help to repair damaged tissue and reduce swelling. The same benefits are also available from the fruit itself, so if you enjoy pineapples and have a bout of bruising, take some juice or a slice or two a day. Coupled to other approaches, there should be a positive reduction in your bruising’s severity and duration.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an ingredient we often write about on Healthnile, as we really believe it is a very fine healing agent that many people don’t know enough about. It’s a natural home remedy that can play a part in reducing the appearance and pain of bruises. It, too, is an anti-inflammatory and many people report that applying apple cider vinegar directly to bruises can help to reduce their size and improve their color to be less glaringly red or purple.
We mentioned cold compresses earlier. In fact, to get the best of both approaches, there is anecdotal evidence that cool compresses with apple cider vinegar can be especially beneficial.
When to See Further Medical Advice
Large or persistent bruises
If a bruise lingers, it can be unsettling, and perhaps even still painful. This is not something to ignore. That said, before you call the doctor, check that you have been using effective home remedies and that your diet and Vitamin C intake is good enough. It may be that a poor diet is holding back healing. But if the bruise seems to show no signs of fading, you may need to consider using bruise cream or specialized creams to speed up the fading process. You might also try using a hot compress too, as it may assist in loosening the clotted blood and speeding the healing process.
If you have tried all these processes and there is still no change, then it may be time to check with a doctor or pharmacist.
Unexplained bruising can be worrying, but be slightly reassured that it is a common thing. We sometimes bruise as we move around in our sleep, for example, so do not be unduly alarmed.
Nonetheless, be aware of any patterns or regular occurrences. Random bruising may, for example, be linked to other medications you are taking, or which you have recently taken for a short period. Or perhaps you take part in regular activities that cause stress in a localized part of the body? Check your lifestyle to see if you can locate any coincidences of actions with the bruises you see.
Though rare, random bruising may also be connected to a blood disorder or internal bleeding. If you therefore are continuingly seeing unexplained bruising, do get this checked out with a doctor.
Bruising is sometimes allied to other feelings we have in our bodies and the bruising may be a byproduct of other deeper issues. Skin swelling or tenderness that bruises may indicate other health conditions that are more serious. It’s therefore very important to be aware of other symptoms that might accompany a bruise and which can indicate a more serious problem. If, for example, you are more often experiencing symptoms such as fever, chills, excessive sweating or regular localized pains, and you find you are suddenly also bruising more often, it is very important to get these checked out.
Skin protection is actually a really important part of how you protect against bruising. Ensure your skin is not weakened by unprotected exposure to sunlight, and make sure that it is not constricted by unnecessarily tight clothing or jewelry or any accessories that are likely to lead to any constriction in blood flow. Make sure, too, that if you are in active sports you take care to protect yourself with pads, guards and any other appropriate gear. Many bruises would be avoided if people wore more sensible gear.
Also moisturize. A moist and supple skin is less likely to bruise than one that is cracked, dry and whose epidermis is weakened.
Wearing protective gear
As above, make sure to be sensible with your lifestyle and the steps you take to protect your most bruisable areas. Wear knee pads, elbow pads, and helmets, as they are essential for decreasing your risk of a serious injury.
Eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet
This is so important, even for bruises.
Eating a balanced diet is an integral part of healing bruises. Make sure you are consuming the right amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and micronutrients. You should be eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, plus lean proteins from sources like fish, eggs and chicken. And though some people think fats are bad, they are often actually incredibly helpful to a body. Get your fats from healthy foods like nuts and seeds.
Check elsewhere on Healthnile for diet related advice. It really is essential for the body to heal well that it is getting a rich supply of nutrition.
As we said above, it is unequivocal that Vitamins C and K can be incredibly helpful in fighting off the effects of bruising. Vitamin C helps your body create collagen, which provides structure and strength to your blood vessels so they don’t break as easily. Vitamin K, which is also anti-inflammatory, works to reduce any swelling that can occur around the bruise itself and therefore lessens the duration of a bruise and also the sensitivity of a bruise while it is on your skin. Vitamin E is also an excellent and important vitamin to have in your diet, as it, too, helps skin stay supple. Coupled to a collagen supplement Vitamin E can offer as much help as any other in restoring your skin’s health.
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