University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Richard Dobyns, MD
Professor of Family Medicine
First Published: 2000
Last Revised: September 2003
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
It's Monday morning after a weekend of outdoor fun. As you're
getting ready for work, you notice several small bruises on your
right leg. Not recalling any bumps that may have caused them, you
wonder where they came from.
"Most bruises, or contusions, are harmless natural reactions to
minor trauma," says Dr. Richard Dobyns, associate professor of family
practice at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. "Everyone
gets bruises, it's just that some people bruise easier than others."
Those bruises on the front of your leg occurred when a blow to the
skin caused tiny blood vessels to break. This caused blood to seep
into surrounding tissue. Women bruise easier than men because their
higher ratio of body fat makes blood vessels less elastic and
susceptible to breakage. Older or overweight people also bruise
easier due to the decreased elasticity of their blood vessels.
Bruises may appear worse if you are taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or
antibiotics. Very rarely, bruising may indicate liver disease or a
cancer of the blood. "Out of those who bruise, only 20 percent pose
concern," Dobyns says.
If you seem to bruise often, increase your intake of green
vegetables. Vitamin K, which speeds healing of bruises, is found in
such vegetables as broccoli, spinach, and lettuce. Reducing fat in
your diet and exercising regularly will keep blood vessels healthy.
Although the application of a cold wet cloth to the injured area
may keep the bruise from becoming too livid, the bruise should
disappear by itself in 10 to 14 days. During the normal course of
events, a bruise goes through four phases before being absorbed by
the body. At first, the bruise will appear bluish-red, then red-blue,
before finally fading to green-yellow and brown.
If a bruise does not fade, or you have obvious bruising that is
not the result of trauma, see your physician.