“Ecchymosis” is the medical term for bruises. These form when blood pools under your skin. They’re caused by a blood vessel break. Bruises look like a mark on your skin that’s black and blue or red to purple. Bruises change color as they heal and most don’t need treatment. Unexplained bruises could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
“Ecchymosis” (pronounced “eh-chuh-mow-sis”) is the medical term for a bruise. A bruise, or contusion, is skin discoloration from damaged, leaking blood vessels underneath your skin. Even though there’s blood pooling underneath your skin, you won’t have any external bleeding unless your skin breaks open.
The collection of blood makes a bruise visible. Bruises form a mark on your skin that ranges in color from black, blue, purple, brown or yellow. Your body’s blood cells repair damaged blood vessels to help you heal.
There are several types of bleeding that cause skin discoloration, including:
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Bruises are very common and will affect everyone at some point in their life. Bruises can occur from a fall, accident, sports injury or medical procedure. People older than 65 years are more likely to bruise, along with women and people assigned female at birth.
There are some bleeding disorders and medical conditions that may make you more prone to bruising, including:
Bruises range in size, shape and color depending on the type of bruise, cause and location. Symptoms of a bruise include:
Bruises are sometimes called black-and-blue marks. They may appear red or purplish at first. If you have a darker skin tone, you may notice purple, dark brown or black bruising. As the area heals, the bruise may turn a lighter shade of brown, green or yellow.
Broken blood vessels cause bruises to form on your skin. Blood vessels are tubes that carry blood throughout your body. Blood vessels can break or leak like a cracked pipe. This causes blood to seep out of your blood vessel and pool underneath your skin, as there isn’t an opening (wound) for your blood to get out of your body. The pooling of blood causes a visible sign of a bruise on your skin (skin discoloration). Your blood cells (platelets) are your body’s plumbers to repair the leak in your blood vessels. Platelets stop bleeding within your body to heal your bruise.
There are several ways that your blood vessels could break, including:
You and your healthcare provider can identify a bruise by your symptoms, especially the look and color of the mark on your skin. Your provider can further identify what type of ecchymosis you have based on your symptoms.
If you experience frequent or unexplained bruising, your provider may order tests to rule out possible causes. These tests include:
Most bruises fade away and don’t need treatment. More severe bruises might need treatment. You can help your bruises heal faster by:
Everyone experiences bruising. You can take these steps to lower your risk of injury and bruising by:
Bruises can be unsightly, but most bruises fade without treatment. Sometimes, bruising is a sign of a more serious issue, so talk to a healthcare provider if you experience unexplained or large bruises. Certain types of bruises, such as hematomas, may require medical attention.
The length of time you’ll have a bruise varies based on what caused your bruise and the type of bruise. Most bruises fade away within two weeks without treatment. More severe bruising and hematomas may last a month or longer.
You should call a healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is a tool for healthcare providers to diagnose and classify conditions for clinical settings. The ICD-10-CM code for ecchymosis is R58.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Ecchymosis (bruising) is a common condition that affects everyone at some point. You should see your healthcare provider if you seem to bruise easily or have unexplained bruising. They’ll want to rule out certain conditions that may require treatment. Applying ice soon after an injury can minimize bruising. Most bruises go away without treatment within a couple of weeks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/26/2023.
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