Do iron levels play a role in frequent bruising? I've been told to take iron supplements for this, but it hasn't been very successful thus far.
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Treating a bruised arm typically involves applying ice to reduce swelling and taking anti-inflammatory medications to ease the painful symptoms associated with bruising. Most bruises are minor enough to to treat at home in this manner. More severe bruising should be examined by a physician, however, as painful swelling may indicate a more serious injury, such as a sprain or fracture.
Bruising occurs when blood leaks from torn vessels, causing discoloration in the skin that can appear black, blue or purple — or even have a green or yellow overtone. A bruised arm can occur from injuries sustained during physical activities, such as sports; bumping into objects; or a fall from height. Sometimes bruising on the arms can simply occur due to thin skin, as is sometimes seen in elderly patients whose blood vessels are more fragile.
Home treatment for a minor bruise on the arm generally involves addressing soreness and swelling. Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the bruised area for 20 to 30 minutes — or until the skin feels numb — can help reduce pain and swelling. Ice helps to slow the flow of blood around the injury; if treatment is applied immediately, it can help prevent bruising altogether.
Doctors do not recommend applying ice directly onto the skin, as direct contact with freezing temperatures can result in further injury. Ice pieces or cold packs can be covered with a towel for protection. A wet towel may work best, however, as a dry towel can prevent the cool temperatures from reaching the skin. Ice treatments can be repeated several times a day for the first few days and can continue for about a week. If painful symptoms continue past a week, a doctor should be consulted for further diagnosis.
Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications can help alleviate the pain from a bruised arm as well. Medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are typically recommended. Doctors usually advise against taking aspirin, however, as it works as a blood thinner and can prolong the symptoms of a bruise. Keeping the bruised arm elevated for the first day or so after injury can also help reduce painful swelling.
If symptoms of a bruised arm have improved after two days of icing, heating the bruised area may help speed recovery by increasing blood flow. Heat can be applied two to three times a day until the bruise begins to fade. A warm washcloth generally serves this purpose well.
Bruises typically heal completely within 2 to 4 weeks if treated properly. Pain and swelling should dissipate more quickly, however. If painful swelling continues for more than a few days to a week with ice and OTC pain medications, a doctor should be consulted to diagnose a potentially more serious injury.