Home>>Family Medicine>>Teen Health: Bruises


What is a bruise? Bleeding into the skin from damaged blood vessels causes discoloration and tenderness of the skin, which we call a bruise. Because the skin is not broken, there is no risk of infection. Bruises usually occur after an injury caused by blunt objects. Unexplained bruises can indicate a bleeding tendency (exception: "unexplained" bruises on the shins are usually not a sign of a bleeding tendency because people commonly bump this area and then forget that they bumped it).

Bruises change colors over time from reddish to bluish to yellowish before the skin fades back to its normal color.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Bruises
    Apply ice to the bruised area for 20 to 30 minutes. No other treatment should be necessary. Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain. Don't use aspirin because it may prolong the bleeding. After 48 hours apply a warm washcloth for 10 minutes three times a day to help your skin reabsorb the blood. Bruises clear in about 2 weeks.
  • Blood Blisters
    Do not open blood blisters because it will increase the possibility of infection. The blisters will dry up and peel off in 1 to 2 weeks.

When should I call my health care provider?

  • You develop new bruises AND you don't know what caused them.
  • You have bruises around the eyes after a head injury.

A bruise does not heal.