Bruises are common when we experience trauma or bump into hard surfaces. From an aesthetic point of view, bruises can look quite unsightly and the appearance of them can last from a few days to a few weeks. There is no way of exponentially speeding up the healing process of a bruise, we have to be patient and observe the colorful changes a bruise goes through to give us an indication of when it will disappear.
There are three types of bruises: bone, muscle, and subcutaneous.
In different bruise ages, the color can vary from reddish to brownish.
The bruise can stay from a few days to a few weeks.
The main trigger that can cause bruises is a force that damages blood vessels.
This article discusses different types of bruises, their causes and how long they might take to heal.
Types of bruises
There are a few types of bruises with different sensations and healing times.
- Bone bruise. This is a type of bone lesion that can be detected with magnetic resonance imaging. A bone bruise can cause pain and tenderness that can last from weeks to months. Bone bruises appear due to injury.
- Muscle bruises and sprains. Muscle bruises or sprains are very common in sports-related injuries. They can vary from mild to severe muscle bruises or sprains. Some cause only slight edema (bleeding) and no limitation of movement, others cause loss of muscle function and intense pain. The muscle bruise can last from a few weeks to a few months.
- Subcutaneous bruise. These types of bruises are the most common in the general population when we bump into hard surfaces or hard things bump into us. The blood vessels are damaged and blood spills into surrounding tissues. These bruises can be painful and change in color over a period of time.
Why are bruises different colors?
From the beginning of the trauma the inflammatory process starts and blood goes from broken blood vessels into surrounding tissues, which causes a reddish color to appear. Then few types of cells arrive to handle the blood.
The first stage is to degrade hemoglobin. Oxygen and energy are required for hemoglobin degeneration. For this reason:
- Biliverdin which is the product of blood catabolism and carbon monoxide arrives.
- Biliverdin has a green pigment so the greenish color appears in the bruise.
- Then biliverdin is converted to bilirubin which has yellowish pigmentation.
- Bilirubin is eliminated gradually and bruises progressively disappear.
The evolution of the colors can start from reddish, purplish, greenish, then yellowish, and finally brownish color.
When will my bruise disappear?
It is very difficult to say the precise time when the bruise disappears. It can stay from a few days to a few weeks. Studies show that there is no predictive factor that can say when a bruise disappears. However, you can always track your bruise color through the stages below and predict when it will fade away.
- On the first stage, you get a red color which means that your bruise is fresh and it can be painful.
- On the second day, you can see the bluish-purple or black color of the bruise.
- Between 5-10 days, the bruise has a green and yellow color.
- After 10-14 days, the bruise has a yellow or brown color.
- After 14 days we can expect that bruise will disappear.
What are the possible triggers to get a bruise?
The appearance of a bruise is caused by three main factors:
- Force. A force acts on the skin and blood vessels, causing them to be ruptured. If you hit the blunt object, the skin integrity is not damaged in this case.
- Blood pressure. Blood pressure should be high enough to get blood in the connective tissue.
- Location. Location is also important because the rupture of the vessels needs to be fairly close to the surface of the skin for a visible bruise.
There are certain medical conditions which make people bruise more easily. If you notice you are bruising easily, it's best to consult a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying issues.
Typically, bruising is caused by the following:
- Trauma. Trauma is the most common trigger that leads to bruising. Sports trauma or everyday life trauma — when we bump into a hard surface — leads to a breakdown of the blood vessels. Then the bruising process starts.
- Injections or taking blood samples. Taking blood or receiving an injection can lead to bruises because sometimes blood vessels are damaged during the procedure.
- Hypertension. Because of the high pressure of blood in the vessels, sometimes vessels cannot withstand it and break down. Then blood goes into surrounding tissues and starts the coloring process that is based on blood catabolism.
- Insect and animal bites. Getting bitten can lead to bruises too. The bite of a bee, mosquito, viper, or snake can lead to bruising.
- Vitamin deficiency. Lack of vitamin C and K can lead to bruises and slow their healing process down.
Other than being painful and often unsightly, in general, a bruise will not alter your life or health beyond having to heal from the initial trauma that caused it.
Prevention of bruises
You are more likely to get a bruise during physical activities such as cycling, roller skating, or when you use other sports equipment. Use the tips below to minimize your risk of injury. Make sure both adults and children utilize all recommended safety gear.
- Helmets. Wear your helmet and other protective sports equipment.
- Cover vulnerable areas. Make sure to get the recommended protective equipment for vulnerable areas such as elbows, knees and wrists.
- Modify your home. Be vigilant in the home and if you have a corner that you are always bumping into, consider adding some padding to it, or move the item elsewhere to avoid bumps.
In general bruises are not harmful and should fade away within two weeks. If you are bruising more easily than usual, check in with your healthcare team to rule out any underlying issues.
- European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology. Bone bruise patterns in knee injuries: where are they found?
- Revista Brasileira de Ortopedia (English Edition). Muscle injury – physiopathology, diagnosis, treatment and clinical presentation.
- Forensic Science International. Determination of the age of bruises using a bilirubinometer.
- IP International Journal of Comprehensive and Advanced Pharmacology. What are bruises? Causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, remedies.