Bruises: Causes and Treatments

When to Worry About a Bruise
Northampton soccer player Ian Sampson  with a black eye
Northampton soccer player Ian Sampson  with a black eye
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Most of us have had to deal with a bruise when we bump into something or take a spill. But what are some less common reasons for bruising? If you encounter any of the following types of bruising, you should consult a health care professional immediately.

  • Petechiae, or small, 1 to 3 millimeter areas of blood that accumulates under the skin. They look like little red dots and are most commonly found on the legs. Petechiae could indicate serious health problems such as infection in the valves of the heart or abnormal blood clotting platelets.
  • Bruising around your navel can be an indication of bleeding in the abdomen.
  • Bruising behind your ear, also called Battle's Sign, can indicate a skull fracture.
  • Multiple bruises that are raised and firm that appear without any injury can suggest autoimmune diseases in which the body attacks its own blood vessels. In this case of spontaneous bruising, you definitely should consult a medical professional.

Also, if you begin to feel a lot of pressure or pain in a bruised part of your body, you could be suffering from compartment syndrome. This happens when pressure increases on the soft tissue and structure underneath your skin and reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to tissues. This condition could be life threatening, so be sure to contact a medical professional immediately.

You should also contact a doctor if the area of the bruise indicates signs of infection such as streaks of redness, fever or drainage.

On the next page, we'll talk about factors that can increase your likelihood for bruising.