A contusion is when blood vessels are damaged or broken after an injury. Blood and fluid then leak from the injured blood vessels into the tissue. This results in a discolored, purplish area in the skin. It takes 2 to 3 weeks to go away. A contusion is also called a bruise.
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Contusions are usually caused by bumps to the skin. This may happen from falling, bumping into something, or being hit, or kicked.
Almost everyone gets contusions. Those with a higher risk are:
- Children and teens
- People who play contact sports
- People with blood-clotting problems
- People taking blood-thinners, such as aspirin
Contusions may cause:
- Skin discoloration—usually blue and/or purple, fading to yellow
Contusions are diagnosed by physical exam of the skin.
The goal is to reduce swelling and pain by:
- Applying ice or a cold pack to the injured area
- Elevating the injured area above the level of the heart
- Taking pain medicine, as advised by the doctor
Using proper safety equipment can help prevent contusions.
American Academy of Family Physicians
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Anticoagulation overview. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/drug-review/anticoagulation-overview. Accessed February 23, 2021.
Bruises. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=bruises-90-P02795. Accessed February 23, 2021.
Neutze D, Roque J. Clinical evaluation of bleeding and bruising in primary care. Am Fam Physician. 2016;93(4):279-286.
Last reviewed January 2021 by Mary Beth Seymour, RN Last Updated: 2/23/2021