Learn more about whether a bruise is something serious.

Everyone gets bruises now and then, some more often than others. They start off black and blue, then change to shades of purple, green, and yellow as they heal. Most of the time, bruises heal on their own within a week or two. But there are different kinds of bruises and blood spots under the skin. Sometimes you may need to get a bruise checked out to find out if there’s something more going on than just being clumsy.

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What Is a Bruise or Blood Spot Under the Skin?

When you get a bump from falling or walking into a coffee table, blood vessels under your skin rupture. That causes blood to leak into the tissue under your skin, creating a bruise or, medically speaking, a contusion. Older adults and women tend to bruise easier than men or younger people.

Other types of bruises and blood spots under the skin are:

  • Hematoma: After an injury, blood pools under the skin, forming a lump. These heal on their own without the need for treatment.
  • Purpura: These are severe bruises that appear without an injury. They may appear in one spot or be spread out. Purpura is usually caused by a clotting disorder.
  • Petechiae: You may know these as tiny red or purple spots that show up on the skin or lining of the mouth. They happen when small blood vessels break close to the skin’s surface.

When to Get a Bruise Checked Out

In most cases, bruises or blood spots aren’t a cause for concern. If they appear suddenly without an injury, these can be signs of an infection or another problem that needs immediate medical attention.

Medications or medical conditions can cause you to bruise more frequently, including:

  • Blood thinners
  • Clotting or bleeding disorders
  • Infections, like sepsis
  • Certain vitamin deficiencies
  • Liver disease
  • Some cancers

It’s normal to notice an occasional bruise and not remember bumping into anything. But if you experience unexplained bruising more often than usual, talk to your doctor.

How Do You Treat a Bad Bruise?

Most bruises can be managed with the R.I.C.E. method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. In addition to resting and applying ice to the affected area, you can use an elastic bandage to reduce swelling. And propping up the bruised area above the level of your heart can optimize blood flow.

Most bruises only need treatment for a day or two before they start to feel better. Talk to your doctor if your bruise hasn’t healed within two weeks. Severe sprains and fractures can cause bruising, along with swelling and pain.

In most cases, a bruise is a minor problem that will heal quickly. For more information on bruising and blood spots and how to treat a bad bruise, find a doctor at UPMC.