A bruise forms when a blow breaks blood vessels near your skin's surface, allowing a small amount of blood to leak into the tissues under your skin. The trapped blood may cause a bruise that at first looks like a black-and-blue mark and then changes color as it heals.

If your skin isn't broken, you don't need a bandage. But you can enhance bruise healing with these simple techniques:

  • Elevate the injured area.
  • Apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel or a cloth dampened with cold water. Do this for about 10 minutes. Repeat several times a day for a day or two after the injury as needed.
  • Rest the bruised area, if possible.
  • Consider acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) for pain relief, or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) for pain relief and to reduce swelling.

Consult your doctor if you:

  • Notice very painful swelling in the bruised area
  • Are still experiencing pain three days after a seemingly minor injury
  • Have frequent, large or painful bruises, particularly if your bruises appear on your trunk, back or face, or seem to develop for no known reasons
  • Have easy bruising and a history of significant bleeding, such as during a surgical procedure
  • Notice a lump (hematoma) form over the bruise
  • Are experiencing abnormal bleeding elsewhere, such as from your nose or gums or in urine or stool
  • Suddenly begin bruising, but have no history of bruising
  • Have a family history of easy bruising or bleeding

These signs and symptoms may indicate a more serious problem, such as a blood-clotting problem or blood-related disease.

Nov. 05, 2014