Bruises are characterised by a discolouration of the skin, swelling and soreness – they are formed when blood vessels rupture and blood seeps into the tissues, causing the purplish-blue discolouration which usually changes colour and fades over a period of approximately ten days.
Most people are familiar with bruises and their characteristic symptoms of skin discolouration – purple, blue, red, pink fading to yellow – accompanied by swelling and tenderness around the affected area.
A more serious type of bruise is a haematoma, which is an accumulation of blood which has leaked into tissues from a damaged blood vessel. If there is limited space available for the blood to flow into, pressure slows and eventually stops the flow of blood. The blood clots, serum collects, and the mass becomes hardened and painful – a bump on the head is a good example. These occur most commonly around sites of surgery or fracture and in the tissue around the eye following a blow. Medical supervision is required.
The most common cause of bruising is a blow or severe pressure to the area affected, or in response to an accidental or surgical wound.
Weakened blood vessels and blood cell abnormalities also cause bruising, as does a decreased ability for the blood to clot (this may occur in people taking blood-thinning medication such as warfarin or aspirin).
In addition, people who are on drastic weight-loss diets also tend to bruise easily.
If you tend to bruise continually or frequently, consult with your healthcare professional to rule out a more serious blood condition.
Tendency to bruise easily may be due to weakened and more easily damaged blood vessel walls; this may be due to a deficiency of vitamin C and/or bioflavonoids
Apply a cold compress (e.g. ice cubes wrapped in a tea towel) directly to the bruise as soon as possible after it occurs, for approximately five minutes. At the same time, keep the affected body part raised if possible to allow blood to drain back towards the heart.
Following the cold compress, a bandage may be applied to try and prevent the area from swelling. It’s best to use a pad of lint or cotton wool over the bruise to protect it before applying the bandage.
Ensure your diet is rich in fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds to provide you with the vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids you need for a healthy circulatory system. If you feel that your diet is inadequate, consider a multivitamin or vitamin C supplement.
When skin bruises easily, there may be a Vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C with Citrus bioflavonoids can help to strengthen the little broken capillaries that occur with bruises. Grapeseed extract contains naturally occurring antioxidant substances found in plants known as polyphenolic flavonoids. These compounds can enhance capillary strength and vascular function, and therefore prevent and treat bruising.
Occasionally, bruising is a symptom of more serious underlying disease. If you bruise very easily, or if your bruises take a long time to heal, consult your healthcare professional.
Certain pharmaceutical and natural remedies thin the blood, and may therefore delay clotting time (the time it takes to stop bleeding). If you are taking aspirin, warfarin, ginkgo, fish oil, ginger or vitamin E and experiencing excessive bruising, consult your healthcare professional.