What is a bruise?

A bruise, or contusion, is skin discoloration from a skin or tissue injury. This injury damages blood vessels underneath the skin, causing them to leak.

When blood pools under the skin, it causes black, blue, purple, brown, or yellow discoloration. There’s no external bleeding unless the skin breaks open.

Who might get a bruise?

Everyone experiences bruising. Bruises can occur from a fall, accident, sports injury or medical procedure. Older people are more likely to bruise. There are some bleeding disorders that can lead to excessive bruising. There are also some medical conditions that may make you more prone to bruising.

You may be more prone to bruising if you:

  • Have cancer or liver disease.
  • Have family members who bruise easily.
  • Take medications to thin blood or stop clotting, such as aspirin or blood thinners.
  • Regularly take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief, including ibuprofen (Advil®) or naproxen (Aleve®).
  • Have a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia, von Willebrand disease or another blood clotting disorder.
  • Experience a low blood platelet count (thrombocytopenia).
  • Are deficient in vitamin C or vitamin K.

What are the types of bruises?

Your healthcare provider may refer to bruising by its medical term: ecchymosis (ech-e-moe-sis). Bruises are also called contusions. The different types of bruises include:

  • Hematoma: Trauma, such as a car accident or major fall, can cause severe bruising and skin and tissue damage. A hematoma is a collection of blood outside the blood vessels that causes pain and swelling..
  • Purpura: This type of bruising typically involves small bleeding that occurs under the skin.
  • Petechiae: These are pinpoint areas (less than 2 mm) of reddish dots on the skin that do not turn white after applying gentle pressure.
  • Senile purpura: As you age, your skin becomes thinner, dryer and more prone to tearing. Your skin also bruises more easily. This condition is known as senile purpura.
  • Black eye: A blow to the head can cause a black eye (or two black eyes). Blood and fluids pool under the eye. This condition causes swelling and a bruise, or discolored ring, to form around the eye. A black eye can sometimes indicate a more serious eye injury, such as bleeding in the eye (hyphema), or a facial fracture.

What causes bruising?

After an internal blood vessel injury, blood pools under the skin causing the discolored, bruised look.

What are the signs of bruising?

Bruises are sometimes called black-and-blue marks. They may appear red or purplish at first. If you have darker skin, 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. The bruised area and surrounding skin may also be tender to touch. A hematoma causes a swollen, raised, painful bump.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy