Do Bruises Swell? When to Visit Urgent Care

Young woman sitting on a yellow sofa examining a bruise on her thigh.

Anyone can bruise at any point in their lifetime. In fact, most everyone does. Nearly 55% of those who bruise easily are considered healthy otherwise, with no underlying health conditions.

Although bruises are generally not something to worry about or seek urgent care for, bruises may require medical attention if they cause swelling, even if they’re unrelated to your health history and happened due to a minor accident.

If you currently have an urgent medical emergency that has caused bruising or a new bruise that is causing you pain and swelling, we can help.

Let’s discuss when and why bruises swell.

What is a bruise?

Bruising, or ecchymosis, is a common skin injury resulting in skin discoloration. Bruises can appear on any part of the body but are mostly found on the arms and legs. 

Bruises are caused by a direct injury to the skin and underlying tissues. After impact, blood vessels are damaged, causing blood to pool near the skin’s surface, resulting in the black and blue mark.

Do bruises swell?

Yes, bruises can cause mild swelling a few hours after your initial injury. Most swelling dissipates within a few hours to a day and can be successfully reduced using an ice pack and elevation.

If you are experiencing swelling that lasts longer than a day or worsens over time, you should seek further medical attention to ensure there are no underlying injuries related to the bruise on the surface of your skin.

Other bruise symptoms

The most common symptom of a bruise is skin discoloration. A bruise usually starts with a reddish hue. After a few hours, they typically turn dark blue or black and change color throughout the healing process, going from brown to yellow until they heal.  

Other symptoms can include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness

Because symptoms are minimal for most, bruises can be treated at home using ice packs, heat compressions, elevation and rest.

What causes bruising?

Bruising is caused by direct trauma or minor accidents affecting a specific area of the body.

Less common causes include:

  • Heavy weightlifting or vigorous exercise
  • Thinning skin
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Medications

Although bruising is typically not something to worry about, you should seek treatment if you notice frequent or easy bruising on your skin, as they could be the first sign of more severe health conditions such as:

  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Blood disorders
  • Malnutrition
  • Severe alcohol abuse
  • Cushing’s Syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)
  • Leukemia
  • Cirrhosis
  • Aplastic anemia

Aside from underlying health conditions or accidents, bruising and swelling may be a sign of domestic violence, elder abuse or child abuse. If you believe someone you know and love is experiencing abuse, contact your local public safety officials immediately.

When should I visit Oxford Urgent Care for a bruise?

We encourage you to seek urgent care treatment for a bruise if:

  • It causes intense pain, swelling or tenderness
  • It appears out of nowhere and becomes worse over time
  • It does not improve over 2 weeks or completely clear in 4 weeks

We are open seven days a week to help with your urgent care needs; simply walk in to receive treatment for your bruises today. No appointment is needed.