A bruise is a condition marked by discoloration of the skin caused due to some king of trauma or injury. Sometimes, an injury may not cause wounds or tear up the skin surface, but may affect the tissues present deeper within the skin and damage the blood vessels. It is such damage that causes the skin surface to become bluish or blackish on the injured area, resulting in what is called bruising or contusion. It is possible for bruises to change colors from blackish to reddish blue or even yellowish green. Bruises tend to heal in about 2 to 5 weeks.
Bruising can occur due to varied reasons such as banging against furniture, stumbling against the door, etc. Most people are unable to recall such causes when a bruise develops at the injured/banged up area a few days later. Such causes of bruising are normal. However, if bruising occurs on a frequent basis without any known causes, then patients need to seek medical attention as unexplained bruising may be a sign of some underlying disease or health disorder.
Symptoms of unexplained bruising
Bruising may be accompanied by the below listed signs and symptoms:
- Appearance: Formation of reddish pink blotches on the skin, or an area marked by small red dots on skin.
- Size: The bruise may be quite small and easily merge with the skin color. It can also be quite big, painful, and swollen.
- Color: The blood which leaks from the torn capillaries into the nearby tissues cannot be immediately absorbed by the body. The clearing of blood occurs over a period of time, which is what causes the changes in the color of bruises. The bruise color is thus an indication about the duration for which a bruise has been present on the body.
- In the early stages, a bruise may be reddish as blood has just started to collect under the skin. The hemoglobin starts changing color in a few days, which causes the bruise to become blackish or bluish-purple.
- After 6 to 10 days, the bruise may turn somewhat greenish or yellowish. Finally, after about 2 weeks, it may become light brown or yellowish brown in color. A bruise may fully vanish in about 3 weeks. In some patients, it may persist for a month or even more.
Causes of unexplained bruises
Unexplained bruises may occur due to the following causes:
- Purpura simplex: It is a vascular condition marked by easy rupture of the blood vessels and easy reddish bruising on the legs ,calves, thighs, and lower limbs. The blood vessels may rupture without exercise, injury, or any apparent cause. Women are more prone to purpura simplex associated unexplained bruises than men.
- Acanthosis nigricans: It is a condition marked by development of unexplained bruises and black and brown skin patches, especially in body areas with skin creases such as the neck, groin, and armpits. Such hyper pigmentation of the skin occurs due to presence of increased insulin which then leaks into the skin because of insulin resistance related to diabetes. Hence, people who experience symptoms such as frequent infection, excessive thirst, blurred vision, and fatigue, along with unexplained bruises need to get checked for diabetes.
- Allergies: People can also develop unexplained bruises as part of an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions can occur due to exposure to different allergens, including certain foods, chemicals in cosmetics, insect stings, apparel fabrics, and medications, etc.
- Thrombocytopenia: It is a condition marked by impaired ability of the body to form normal blood clots. It can be present from birth, or acquired due to varied causes including paralysis for a long time. Abnormal clotting of blood is visible as reddish unexplained bruises on the skin.
- Von Willebrand disease: It is an uncommon genetic condition observed in about 1 percent of the population. Patients suffer from unexplained bruises due to improper clotting of blood. Additional symptoms including increased bleeding from the gums and nose. Some patients may experience almost unnoticeable, mild symptoms.
- Anemia: The blood disorder is marked by reduced levels of hemoglobin which is what causes unexplained bruises.
- Leukemia: This type of blood cancer is marked by decreased platelet count which triggers the development of unexplained bruises.
- Exposure to sunlight: The fatty layers on the skin provide natural protection for the body against environmental elements like UV light, etc. It may get damaged and disappear due to increased exposure to sunlight. Loss of the fatty skin layer exposes the blood vessels to damage by the sun, leading to unexplained bruises.
- Heavy workouts: Excessive and rigorous exercising can exert tremendous pressure on the blood vessels and cause them to rupture, thereby resulting in unexplained bruises.
- Deficiency of nutrients: Unexplained bruises may also occur due to deficiency in vitamins B12, C, and K, folic acid, and/or iron.
- Insufficient layer of fat: The layer of fat which covers the skin acts as a cushion against minor bumps and bangs and lessens its impact on the tissues. A reduced fat layer means that there is no reduction in impact and no cushioning effect, which can result in unexplained bruises even with minor skin trauma. Children, the elderly, and thin people are therefore more prone to developing such bruising.
- Aging: As one tends to age, the walls of the blood vessels as well as tissues surrounding them become weaker and more fragile. Hence, they are more prone to injuries and easy rupture, thereby resulting in unexplained bruising.
- Side effects of medicines: Certain medications like steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, blood thinning medications, antidepressants, systemic and topical corticosteroids, asthma medications, anticoagulants, and birth control pills, etc. can cause unexplained bruises as a side effect.
- Underlying diseases: Unexplained bruises may also occur as part of varied conditions, including blood disorders such as Hodgkin’s disease, hemophilia, multiple myeloma, platelet dysfunction; liver and kidney diseases; connective tissue disorders like Marfan’s syndrome, scurvy, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome; heavy and longer menstruation; and sepsis and lupus.
Treatment of unexplained bruises
Unexplained bruises caused due to underlying conditions can be remedied via treatment of those diseases.
Minor cases of unexplained bruises can be resolved with the below listed self-care measures:
- Massages to relieve pain and increase blood flow.
- Use of elastic bandages or ice compression packs to minimize swelling.
- Keeping the affected area in an elevated position. This helps increase blood circulation and reduce swelling.
- Intake of a healthy, balanced, and nutrients-rich diet.
- Regular exercising, yoga, etc can be helpful to fortify your immune system.