Any time that your skin comes into contact with an object in a direct manner, you will likely be left with bruising. A bruise occurs when there is blunt contact between an object and any part of your body, and the result is damaged tissue and capillaries allowing blood to spread underneath the skin. Bruises are most notable for the discoloration they cause to the skin, a characteristic attributed to the loose blood, and the common relation to the phrase “black and blue.”
Bruises are not serious in most cases, as they’re likely to linger for a few days depending on the severity and are at worst just sensitive to the touch due to the damaged tissue’s affect on the surrounding nerves. However, as with any injury there are varying levels of severity. More serious bruises can lead to hematoma, which is more commonly known as internal bleeding. If this occurs, it’s because there has been a hemorrhage beneath the skin, sometimes even in the organs. The difference between a bruise and a hematoma and a bruise is that, while still sensitive and often painful, the hematoma will be hard to the touch. Hematoma’s can also last significantly longer than bruises and will sometimes require surgery to treat or remove.
Bruises will almost always take the shape of the object that causes them. Anyone who has played baseball can attest to the round spot left after a bean ball, just as a black eye tends to circle the eye socket. However, much like dripping paint, bruises are affected by gravity and the blood that is released from the damaged capillaries will flow downward causing abnormalities to the shapes of some bruises. Women bruise more easily than men because of an excess of subcutaneous fat, which is fat that is directly underneath the skin. As people get older, they also bruise more often because their skin becomes thinner due to stretching and aging. People with a lighter skin complexion will also obviously show bruising much more than people with darker skin.
The severity of a bruise depends on the force in which it occurs. In the case of the aforementioned baseball, it would result in a light bruise, as long as the location of impact isn’t in a delicate area of the body. Light bruises will result in minor swelling and will require nothing more than ice and possibly painkillers. But location is a key factor, because the seriousness and risk of bruising increases should the impact take place on or near organs, bones, tendons, ligaments, or, worst of all, the head.
A strong impact to the head can lead to bruising of the brain, an occurrence that will most certainly require surgery and can be fatal. In any case of bruising that results in the spreading of blood and/or other fluids beneath the skin or increasing pain that affects the movement of extremities, medical attention should be required. Improper treatment or lack of attention could result in poor healing and lead to lifelong complications and permanent discomfort. Some of the most severe bruises include pulmonary (lung), cerebral (head) and myocardial (heart) contusions. Bruising of the lungs can lead to lifelong respiratory problems and limitations. Cerebral contusions can lead to memory loss, slowed reaction and response, and even permanent brain damage. As mentioned before, sports can be the most common cause of myocardial contusions, as many athletes can see their careers end due to irregular heartbeats or other disturbances of heart rhythm. These situations are usually caused by the hard impact of a ball, bat or other athlete, and result in damage tissue around the heart. Myocardial contusions and their tendency to develop into heartbeat irregularity can be fatal, especially to children, but also adults because of the immediate nature in which they must be treated.
Bruises can also be an indicator of a greater risk to your health, as repeated and multiple bruising can sometime be indicative of leukemia and other forms of cancer. Bruising is also a common trait linked to meningitis, an inflammation of the tissues surrounding and covering the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be immediately fatal and requires medical attention should any of the regular symptoms (headaches, neck stiffness, confusion, and, of course, bruising) show up.