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Definition

A contusion occurs when blood vessels are damaged or broken after an injury. The raised area of the contusion is the result of blood and fluid leaking from the injured blood vessels into the tissue. You usually see a discolored, purplish area that takes 2-3 weeks to go away.

The condition is a minor problem that usually needs little treatment. Consult with your doctor if the injury does not clear up within a few weeks or if it is severe.

Contusion of Skin

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Causes

Contusions are caused by minor accidents to your skin, such as falling, bumping into something, or being hit, or kicked.

Risk Factors

Almost everyone suffers contusions as a result of routine bumps. People who are at higher risk include:

  • Children and teens
  • People who play contact sports
  • People with blood-clotting problems
  • People taking blood-thinners, such as aspirin
Symptoms

Contusions may cause:

  • Skin discoloration (usually blue and/or purple, fading to yellow)
  • Pain
  • Swelling
Diagnosis

The skin discoloration, pain, and swelling of a contusion are enough to diagnose the condition.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options to help lessen the swelling and pain include:

  • Applying ice or a cold pack to the injured area (do not place ice directly on your skin.)
  • Elevating the injured area above the level of your heart
  • Taking pain relievers if recommended by your doctor

Additional treatment may be needed if:

  • Have a more serious injury (such as fracture)
  • Have broken the skin (may need a tetanus shot or antibiotics)

Prevention

Using proper safety equipment can help prevent contusions.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Health Network
http://www.ccohs.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References:

Bruises. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital web site. Available at: http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=bruises-90-P02795. Accessed July 23, 2012.

Bruise control. University of Rochester, Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/Encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=ContentID=1384. Accessed July 23, 2012.

Contusion. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 27, 2011. Accessed July 23, 2012.



Last reviewed November 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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