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When is a bruise dangerous?

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  • How does a bruise occur?
  • What determines whether you get bruises more often than others?
  • What helps against bruises?
  • How do you hide a bruise as a man?
  • Which bruises are dangerous?

You just bumped into the edge of the table once and you already have a big bruise on your arm. It still hurts days later, even though it wasn't a serious injury. As a rule, these bruises are not dramatic, just annoying. But why do you get the dark bumps in the first place? And can they sometimes be dangerous? This is what hematologist Julia Wiederhold from the Altona HOPA hematological-oncological practice explains to us.

How does a bruise occur?

A bruise, also known as a hematoma, is a bruise under the skin. “It occurs when small vessels break and blood seeps into the surrounding tissue,” explains Wiederhold. After a short time, the blood clots on the crack and thereby closes it. The typical cause of a bruise is a blunt injury such as a bruise or strain. But even if a bruise or strong negative pressure occurs in one place (yes, we're talking about a hickey here), individual vessels can rupture. “The leaked blood then presses against the skin and surrounding nerves, which is why the area swells and hurts,” explains Wiederhold.

The stain gets its color from the different phases in which it breaks down. First, the actually red blood loses oxygen and therefore turns blue-purple. After some time, enzymes convert the red hemoglobin into the greenish biliverdin and then into the yellow bilirubin. After about two weeks, the body has broken down everything and the bruise has disappeared.

What determines whether you get bruises more often than others?

Some people are more prone to hematomas than others. This can be due, for example, to skin color or body fat percentage, because with darker skin or less subcutaneous fat, the bruises are not as easy to see. But it can also be due to the individual composition of your blood, especially its consistency. It's actually quite logical: If the blood is thinner, more of it leaks through the small vascular injuries and clots more slowly. “How thick or thin the blood is depends on the body's own factors, but also on the general lifestyle or certain medications,” says the hematologist. For example, painkillers such as aspirin can thin the blood.

What helps against bruises?

If you have sustained a blunt injury while playing sports or in everyday life, it is best to follow these guidelines first PECH rule:

  • Pause
  • Eis (e.g. in the form of cooling compresses)
  • Compression (e.g. with elastic bandages)
  • Put it up

This will prevent further damage and reduce blood flow to the injured area. This means that less blood can escape from the vessel and the hematoma is smaller.

“But once the bruise is there, there’s little you can do about it,” said the doctor. The body then simply needs a certain amount of time to heal the injury and remove the blood. There are just some medicinal ointments that can help this process a little. Athletes should know these sports albums. Wiederhold, on the other hand, advises against massages, heat or exercise: “Such measures to promote blood circulation do not lead to faster healing, but often even delay it.”

How do you hide a bruise as a man?

Do you have an unsightly bruise on your face or a big hickey on your neck? Then you can cover the area with makeup. But don't just use your girlfriend's powder to apply make-up, but pay attention to the right color. An unusually brown spot on the neck is just as telltale as the hickey itself. It's better to go to a drugstore and find a so-called concealer whose tone is a little bit lighter than your skin. First apply a moisturizer to your skin and then carefully apply the concealer. Afterwards, smudge the make-up so that no noticeable edges are visible. But be careful: Do not apply make-up to open wounds, otherwise the area may become infected. These are the best makeup tips for men.

Which bruises are dangerous?

Do you have a painful bruise but can't remember where it came from? Don't worry, in the vast majority of cases you don't have to worry even if a bruise occurs without a clear cause. “However, hematomas in certain places or in unusual quantities can indicate more serious problems,” emphasizes Wiederhold. Therefore, pay attention to these warning signs and, if in doubt, speak to a doctor:

  1. You have bruises more often than usual: If your blood changes and becomes thinner, more hematomas can form. “This can be caused by certain medications, but it can also be due to changes in the body,” says the hematologist. If you get hematomas unusually often or if they don't go away for a long time, in the worst case, this could be a sign of an illness such as a clotting disorder or leukemia, i.e. blood cancer.
  2. The bruise is in a joint: When you injure your knee, elbow, or other joints, blood can sometimes leak between the bones and capsules. It hurts like hell and you usually can't move the area anymore. “If there is a very severe or untreated bruise in this area, the joint can become deformed and its movement will then be permanently restricted,” warns Wiederhold.
  3. The hematoma is in the head area: The brain is very sensitive to shock. If you get a bump on the head or a black eye, that impact may also have been damaging to the brain. If you briefly lose consciousness after such an injury, feel dizzy or nauseous, or can no longer remember certain moments, these are clear warning signs of a concussion.
  4. The stain is near organs: As with the head, you should also be vigilant about bruises on the chest or stomach area. A bruise can not only damage small blood vessels, but also an organ or large blood vessels without you noticing it immediately. Even if no bruise is initially visible after a punch in the pit of the stomach, you should continue to monitor it. “The abdominal cavity is like a cave in which a lot of blood fits without being visible from the outside,” explains the doctor. If the pain gets worse rather than better after such an injury, be sure to get yourself examined quickly.
  5. Your calf turns reddish-purple: If your entire calf becomes discolored, painfully swollen, and hot, it's probably not because of a bruise, but rather a sign of a blocked vein. Such a thrombosis can move to other areas and also block vessels such as those to the lungs! Then there is a danger to your life: Don't hesitate for long, go to the (emergency) doctor's office.

A bruise is usually harmless. However, if you frequently get hematomas without an apparent cause, if you feel dizzy, nauseated or have a racing heart after an injury, or if you have severe pain in the area, it is better to seek medical help early.

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