What Is the Difference Between a Bruise and a Hematoma?

While they may look similar, and have similar causes, a bruise is very different from a hematoma. A bruise, also called a contusion, is a mild to moderate injury that causes the small blood vessels to break and leak under the skin. This leaves the skin discolored and tender to the touch. Bruises typically go from a red shade to blue, purple or black as it begins to heal. Once the body begins to absorb the blood and heal the area, the bruise will turn a yellow or green shade and eventually light brown before it disappears.

A hematoma occurs when a larger blood vessel is damaged. It’s a moderate to severe injury that causes blood to collect, pool and clot under the skin, which gives it a spongy, rubbery or lumpy feeling. Hematomas can occur anywhere in the body and aren’t typically a cause for concern. However, some are medical emergencies, like an intracranial hematoma, which is bleeding on the brain.

Hematoma vs. bruise symptoms

The symptoms of hematoma vs. bruise are quite different. Hematoma symptoms can be as minor as bruise symptoms, but they can also be life-threatening. Here are a few easy ways you can tell whether you have a bruise or hematoma:

Common bruise symptoms

Common bruise symptoms include:

  • Dark blue, purple or black skin discoloration
  • Tenderness around the affected area
  • Minor swelling around the affected area

Symptoms of a severe hematoma

Hematoma symptoms, particularly after sustaining a head injury, are more severe and may include:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure

Can I treat a bruise or hematoma safely at home?

Bruises can be safely treated at home with the RICE protocol, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. This will help limit pain and swelling after a mild to moderate injury. For non-life-threatening hematomas, pain and swelling can be managed with over-the-counter medications, like Tylenol. However, symptomatic hematomas or those located in certain areas may require urgent medical to surgical treatment. If you or a loved one begins to exhibit one or more symptoms listed above, seek urgent medical care to avoid further complications.

Depending on the size of the injury, the swelling and pain of a hematoma can take between 1-4 weeks to fully disappear. During that time, the skin over the hematoma may turn a shade of blue, then brown or yellow as the blood is dissolved and absorbed. This process usually takes a few weeks, but can last months. If you are experiencing prolonged pain or swelling as a result of a bruise or hematoma, visit your doctor or local urgent care to make sure nothing more serious is going on, For a bruise or a hematoma treatment in Destin, Panama City Beach and Inlet Beach, visit Emerald Coast Urgent Care. Our physicians are skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of non-life-threatening soft tissue injuries. We are open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. for walk-in appointments.