Are Bruises Dangerous?

Michael Pollick

There can be no doubt that life without bruises is noticeably better than life with them, but most bruises are not considered especially dangerous. That's not to suggest that severe bruising cannot lead to other complications such as blood clots, nerve damage and loss of mobility, however. These complications can be much more dangerous than the bruises themselves, but they are rarely life-threatening.

Anti-inflammatory medication, which can help reduce the pain from a bruise.
Anti-inflammatory medication, which can help reduce the pain from a bruise.

Most bruises are caused by some form of blunt force trauma to blood vessels under the skin. When these blood vessels break open, blood begins to pour into the surrounding tissue. This blood pools under the skin and initially looks dark purple or deep red. The pain associated with these wounds is caused by the damaged nerves in the area and the pressure of the blood as it pools. This pain can be treated with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, often called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Those with blood disorders may develop severe bruises even from minor accidents.
Those with blood disorders may develop severe bruises even from minor accidents.

Blood clots may form in the area, but since the clotted blood is not in the actual circulatory system, the chances of a stroke or heart attack are very slim. The blood clots themselves have nowhere to go and no way to get there, so they tend to remain in the pools of blood we see as bruises. Eventually the body will absorb the blood and the bruises should reduce in size and pain level. Any blood clots that may have formed should also be dissolved naturally and absorbed. There are occasions when blood clots could create an excessive build-up of calcium and the deposits may have to be removed surgically or through prescription medications.

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Most bruises are not considered dangerous.
Most bruises are not considered dangerous.

The most dangerous spot for bruises to form is possibly the head and neck region. Head injuries tend to bleed heavily because of the abundance of blood vessels. A blunt force injury to the skull could create a serious form of bruise called a hematoma. A hematoma can be very susceptible to blood clots and other complications associated with internal bleeding.

A person with a bruised toenail.
A person with a bruised toenail.

As bad as these wounds may appear to be, especially during the first few hours following a trauma, they should heal on their own in time. Sometimes the pressure of the blood-filled tissues can affect or damage nerves in the local area, and those damaged nerves in turn can hamper muscle movement. If the bruises are near major joints, mobility may be temporarily affected until the swelling and pressure are reduced. If a wound does not appear to heal within a reasonable amount of time, the injury may have to be examined or re-examined by a medical professional.

An ice pack, which can help with a bruise.
An ice pack, which can help with a bruise.

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Discussion Comments


I have a huge bruise on my arm close to my elbow , but more on the inside. Not sure what I hit it on, but it was about five or six days ago and it still hurts and has a bump or knot on the inside of the bruise, which is still really purple and around it is green. Should I be worried?


I had a fall on a bicycle from a collision with a walker. I thought I broke some ribs, so I went to emergency, but the X-rays showed nothing was broken.

Now, six days later, I have my entire left shoulder to below my elbow bruised with dark purple, and my entire left hip/buttock (about eight inches across) in dark purple. My ribs still hurt but no visible bruises are there. Is there cause for concern? Should I follow up with a doctor?


Is a bad bruise on the breast dangerous? I am female.


I got in a car accident and my bruise on my leg is big --about 3 and a half inches all around and it's getting hard. Is this normal or is it bad?


I fell from a ladder 10 days ago onto a solid wood frame couch. I hit really hard, and the outside of my thigh turned black,blue and purple. The colors have faded now but the pain has gotten much worse than before, and it hurts to touch the area, it is still swollen and really hurts to walk. I just don't understand why it is hurting so much now. Can you explain this to me?


I'm in drumline and the snare drum constantly hits my left thigh and I always have giant bruises. Can that turn into cancer because they're always coming back?


I have bruises on my lower leg. Some say it was caused by lots of milk intake. Is that true?


I injured my lower leg and now there is a huge knot. They did an ultrasound and kept me in the hospital four days, while treating me with string antibiotics. They said that it's blood build up and I'm afraid I may need surgery. Will it go away on its own? Is it dangerous? If I need surgery, how long will they need to keep me afterwards? I'm scared.


I have had physio on my back. The next day I had bruising on my back. My husband was horrified at the mark on my back. I did not have this when I went to the physio.


When I exercise, mainly acrobatics and other various high impact exercise classes, I get bruises on my legs even though there is no trauma involved. Since my stroke and blood transfusions last year I get unexplained bruises. I can barely touch something or even jump low to reach for an item and I get a bruise and not necessarily just on my legs, but elsewhere on my body, too! I just bruise all over and I am getting very tired of it.


Back in June I fell off a ladder and landed on my right thigh (I think)because I had a huge bruise there. But I never had it looked at because I had other things that were hurting me worse at the time. I broke my big toe on my right foot from the fall and also had a large bruise and hematoma in my left elbow from the fall.

When I fell, I landed in landscaping small rocks. The only two things that were x-rayed were my toe and elbow. Both have healed nicely, but my thigh, which looked like it was healing, is suddenly getting worse. All my bruising went away in a normal amount of time, but now three months later. I have pain all the time and especially to the touch. There seems to be four small hot spots. I have heat coming from these spots and they feel like a small knot and they are red/pink now. It is slightly painful to walk but really disturbs my sleep because I am a side sleeper. Any ideas on what this could be?


i have a bruise on my leg. It's not too big --a little bigger than a quarter and it kind of has a lump to it and it's hard. can this be bad?


I was a victim of domestic violence for 13 years. My abuser repeatedly hit my left leg, causing severe bruising over my entire thigh. I still to this day have problems/pain with my left leg. But lately I have been having problems moving my leg certain ways. It either hurts too much or I just can't move it past a certain point. Could this type of abuse cause a tumor or cancer?


I dropped a can on my bare foot Sunday and there is a bruise. Saturday I am going for a pedicure or should I wait till the bruise is all gone? Was told by a unreliable source about blood clots and it got me thinking. Please advise and thank you.


I managed to get 56 bruises all over me (paintball pig-hunt, I was the pig), in a variety of colours and sizes. Is there any reasoning or meaning behind the differences (color, etc)? Or is it one of those things that are just completely random?


I have a small bruise on my knee, how it comes up is more intriguing to me than the bruise i get. This has happened twice in the past few months.

My knee is fine, I've not hit it or anything, but it will start to itch, so i scratch it, and then a bump appears, and it looks bruised. the bruise generally lasts a few days, then it's gone. is this something serious i need to speak to my doctor about?


Bruises are not necessarily caused by blunt force trauma. It is possible for small capillaries near the surface of the skin to break after vigorous scratching or rubbing. Some people also experience a darkening under the skin in reaction to an insect bite or embedded splinter. This may be the actual cause of the small bruises you notice after scratching the irritated site.


All I have to do is itch somewhere on my body and I bruise. Just today I had an itch on my leg (above my knee) and then 20 minutes to half an hour there are a lot of bruises where I'd scratched. What the heck is wrong with me? I am 40 years of age not 80. -pondo2


i have a bruise on my forearm. i didn't hit it or have any trauma. it has a small bump in almost the middle. no signs of a bite. Any ideas?


i have a bruise on my forearm. i didn't hit it or have any trauma. it has a small bump in almost the middle. no signs of a bite...any ideas?


I fell on a rock, the point of trauma was my outer thigh. A major bruise formed. It has been 5 days and I expected it to turn black/blue/yellow but instead it is more red/purple/blue. What is happening?


A work colleague had a leg removed after it developed cancer following bruising, but the doctors opinion was that the cancer was there - it was merely activated by the trauma.


The physios must have used extreme pressure to provoke bruising. I don't believe that a well trained and careful physiotherapist would produce bruises on the back of the patient, unless the patient had very fragile skin (the skin of very old people is often very thin and very fragile leading to easy bruising).

Donald W. Bales, M.D. retired internist wbdu


*Truth*- The worst bruising I ever experienced was at the incompetent hands of a Navy Corpsman who in his failed attempts to draw 10cc's of my blood stuck his needle in both my arms no less than 14 times.

I did not raise my arms for days.

Since then I'm leary of medical personnel who come at me intent on drawing my blood.

Many medical tech's are quite novice, especially if you happen to have deep veins as I do.


I was wondering if bruises could cause cancer?


I had acute lower back pain, so for the first time in my life (am 30 yo) had to see a physio, and have some pretty intense, painful lower back/ side of buttocks physio... the bruising from the first couple of sessions with the lady physio werent too bad, however a couple of days later i had a 3rd session with a male physio (which didn't feel any worse - although still painful at the time!) - however several hours later really terrible, purple bruising set in, and i felt very raw and tender... my family were shocked at my completely bruised lower back (not on spine though). Although 5 days have passed and i am pleased with the rate of bruise recovery, my family are worried that there may have been some internal damage. Do you think this is likely? I feel OK, and my back pain is pretty much gone now, which is good... but just worried about possible clotting? any feedback would be appreciated, as i have never had physio before (and i am an easy bruiser) - i don't know if this is normal or not. THANKS!

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