A bruise that itches like hell as some people describe the feeling is unpleasant and begs the question, “Do Bruises itch?” Although not a common occurrence, bruise itching can indeed occur as the skin heals. This post looks at the causes of itchy bruises and the various home remedies and over the counter treatments that are helpful in getting rid of the itching and bruising.
My Bruise Itches, What Does It Mean?
Itching is an indication that the leaked blood is breaking up from the bruise and getting reabsorbed back into the body.
Although not a common phenomenon, itchy bruises is nothing to worry about unless it is so intense or associated with other symptoms such as intense or increasing swelling at the site of injury, feeling hot to touch, fever, or severe pain.
Why Do Bruises Itch?When you have an itchy bruise mark, the first question that comes to your mind is, “why does my bruise itch”. According to Dr. Rob Lamberts, MD, an internal medicine specialist in Martinez, Georgia, the occasional bruise itching is caused by the accumulation of bilirubin in the bruise as it heals. Although it is still not clear why, having high levels of bilirubin in the blood is known to cause itching of the skin.
To understand the link between bilirubin, bruising, and itchy skin on legs, thighs, back, arm - or any other part of the body - it is important to first of all understand how bruises form in the first place and the stages they undergo during healing.
How Bruises on Legs, Thighs, Arms, Back, etc. FormA bruise is a skin injury that forms when the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in the skin break as a result of traumatic injury (e.g. a blow, bumping into something, or a fall), vigorous exercise (e.g. weight lifting and running), or any other factor that causes tearing of the blood vessels.
This causes a small amount of blood to collect in the tissues surrounding the injured capillaries. The pooled blood manifests in one or more red or blue-and-black marks beneath the surface of the skin that later changes to different colors while healing over the next 2 to 4 weeks. According to the WebMD, bruise that occur on the leg typically take longer to heal compared to those that develop on the face and arms.
How Bilirubin Builds Up and Eventually Cause a Bruise to ItchAt the very beginning, a bruise appear as red or pink colored discolorations that are not itchy. The iron-rich hemoglobin is responsible for these colors. Over a period of a few hours and days, the bruise then changes its color to dark purple or blue, usually an indication of falling levels of oxygen in the pooled blood.
At about day 5 or so, the bruise then takes on a greenish hue, usually an indication of rising levels of a chemical compound known as biliverdin. This is formed as a result of biochemical breakdown of hemoglobin.
At about day 7, the bruise enters the final healing stage and turns its color to pale yellow (sometimes brown) due to rising levels of of bilirubin. The rising levels of this chemical compound in the pooled blood often results in itchy bruises.
Itchy Bruise without Injury – Causes of Unexplained Itchy Bruise on Leg, Thigh, or Arm.Other than an itchy bruise that you sustain for an obvious reason like a blunt trauma from bumping your legs into a hard object or a baseball that land straight on your face or leg, or torn blood vessels after vigorous exercises, you may also get unexplained bruising on thigh, leg, arm, or back that later turn itchy. Common causes of unexplained itchy bruises – that occur for no apparent reason – include:
1. Old AgeThe normal ageing process causes the skin to not only become thinner but also lose some of the fatty tissue layer that support and cushion the blood vessels against external infringements. This coupled with years of sun damage makes the elderly to get bruises on legs, feet, hands and arms more readily, sometimes for trivial reasons that would otherwise not cause any injuries e.g. walking.
Blood thinning medications can also be the underlying cause for itchy bruises that occur for no apparent reason.
2. Use of Blood Thinning Medications
Among the most common culprits are anticoagulant medications e.g. warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin, and anti-platelet agents. These reduces the ability of the blood to clot after a damage to the capillaries which can then lead to more bleeding and hence more pronounced bruising.
According to Mercola.com, women who use oral contraceptives may also develop a tendency to bruise easily due to weakening of blood vessels. Women tend to bruise more on the upper arms, thighs, and buttocks, the WebMD says.
3. CorticosteroidsAlthough useful in treatment of eczema, allergies, asthma, etc., corticosteroids often make the skin thinner when used over a long period, making it more prone to bruising. If you keep getting itchy bruises without any known injury and you are on topical or oral corticosteroids, then you probably know the underlying reason; talk to your doctor about it.
4. SupplementsFish oil is a rich source of omega-3, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and is commonly used for treatment of high blood pressure, painful menstruation, and depression. Unfortunately it has blood-thinning effect that can cause easy and unexplained bruising.
A popular supplement for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, headaches, vertigo, ear ringing etc., Ginkgo biloba extracts also have a similar effect.
5. Blood DisorderAn itchy bruise that occur without any known injury can also be a sign of bleeding disorder especially leukemia. Leukemia is characterized by reduced ability of the body to produce platelets, the disc-shaped blood cells that aid in clotting of blood when the tiny blood capillaries under the skin are damaged. This makes people suffering from leukemia at higher risk of bruising.
According to Health Line, leukemia bruises are no different to those caused by other factors except that tend to be more of them than normal. The bruises due to leukemia can also appear in unlikely parts of the skin e.g. the back.
According to the WebMD, hemophilia, thrombocytopenia, and von Willebrand’s disease can also cause sudden bruising even when injury to capillaries is not involved.
If bruises are accompanied by recurrent nose bleeding and/or bleeding gums, it is advisable to see your doctor in order to rule out bleeding disorders.
6. Vascular Conditions
- Purpuric Dermatosis: Itchy bruises on the shin may be indicative of a vascular condition known as purpuric dermatosis, especially in older people. The condition is characterized by many small bruises on the shin that look like cayenne pepper when viewed from a distance.
- Vasculitis: Unexplained itchy bruises on the back of legs or thighs may also be due to inflammation of one or more blood vessels, a condition referred to as vasculitis.
7. Liver ProblemsUnexplained bruising may also be a sign of live disease such as liver cirrhosis and hepatitis. These conditions cause inflammation in the liver leading to reduce ability to produce the clotting factors, says Bhupinder Kaur, MD, a dermatologist practicing in India. This then cause easy bruising, sometimes involving injuries so minor for the patient suffering from the condition to perceive.
8. GeneticsEasy bruising has a heredity aspect and people born in a family with a history of the condition have some chances of picking it too. Those unexplained itchy bruises could therefore be the inevitable consequence of your genetic makeup.
Whether itchy or not, a bruise that occur for no apparent reason, or for minor reasons that would normally not cause bruising, warrants the attention of your doctor.
What About Itch That Turns Into Bruise on Legs, Thighs, ArmsItching is usually associated with an overwhelming urge to scratch the affected area. Unfortunately, this can worsen the itching in some instance leading to a vicious cycle of itching-scratching-itching.
It is also possible to scratch the area raw not to mention cause bruising especially if you are already predisposed to one or more of the factors that increase the risk of bruising e.g. ageing, use of certain medications and supplements, and blood disorders among others. The bruising is caused by the pressure exerted when itching the affected area rather than the itch itself.
According to Amee Daxini, MD, a Cosmetic Dermatologist at ThinkSkin Clinic, Bangalore, the most important point is determining what has come first between itching and the bruising. For itchy rash that turns into bruise, the following causes of itchy skin bumps and rashes may be worth checking out:
- Fungal infections: This is more common in summer months.
- Dry skin: This is more common a problem in cold winter months when humidity levels drop to their lowest.
- Insect and bug bites: e.g. mosquito bites.
- Allergy: to clothing, foods, etc.
- Thigh rash: Sweat rash on the inner thighs caused by wearing tight clothes.
- Pregnancy: While pregnant, some women get itchy skin especially on the tummy, breasts, arms, and thighs. The itchy areas can get bruised if scratched so hard.
Rather than scratch the itchy area, the focus should be on addressing the underlying cause of the itch while relieving the itch and other symptoms using home remedies such as moisturizing and calamine lotion, or over the counter remedies such as anti-fungal creams, antihistamines etc. As for bruises that is followed by itching, the remedies laid out below will suffice.
When Itchy Skin and Bruising Mean More than Just a Skin ProblemItchy skin and bruising is often a sign of a liver condition known as Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC). According to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), primary biliary cirrhosis is a chronic autoimmune disease that is characterized by inflammation and damage of the bile ducts in the liver.
The bile ducts is ultimately lost, leading to a buildup of bile and toxic wastes in the liver. As a result, scar tissues start developing and building up in the liver leading, a condition known as liver cirrhosis. Over time, the continued gradual buildup of scar tissues ultimately lead to liver failure, necessitating liver transplant.
Scientists believe that PBC develops when the immune system attack the bile ducts. Although the exact cause of PBC is not known, research studies have ruled out alcohol and diet as likely triggers.
Primary biliary cirrhosis has a genetic aspect meaning that some people are at higher risk of developing it due to their inherited genes. Women are also more prone to this autoimmune disease than men.
The following environmental factors can trigger or exacerbate primary biliary cirrhosis, especially in people with heightened risk of the condition due to their genetic makeup:
- Contact with toxic compounds
Other symptoms of primary biliary cirrhosis include fatigue, dry eyes and mouth, altered sleeping pattern (sleepless nights and sleep days), dizziness (especially when standing upright), pain or discomfort in the upper right area of your abdomen, indigestion, and unexplained weight loss.
Treatment of PBC involves the administration of medications that slow down the progression of liver damage.
How To Make Itchy Bruises Go Away – Best Home Remedies For Bruises That ItchEffective treatment of itchy bruises hinges upon facilitating the reabsorption of the leaked blood and preventing further bleeding while soothing the itching and treating any underlying causes of the problem. It is also critically important that you avoid scratching the legs, thighs, arm or whichever part of the body affected by the bruise as this can make the bruising worse not to mention put you at risk of infections. Here is how to get rid of itchy bruise marks at home:
1. Use AntihistaminesAntihistamines such as Benadryl, Zyrtec, etc. may help to relieve itchy bruises. These are readily available over the counter and all you have to do is ask at the nearest pharmacy. The only downside with antihistamines, especially the first generation ones, is that they cause drowsiness.
2. Apply Warm CompressApplying heat to bruised area of the skin helps to foster blood circulation and thus aid in faster re absorption of the blood, and by extension faster healing of the itchy bruise marks on the skin. Here is how to how to use this itchy bruise home remedy:
- Dip a clean small towel in warm water and then wring it out. Apply it on the bruised areas of the leg, thigh, arm, etc. until all the heat sinks. Re-soak it in the water and repeat the process for about five minutes. Use this home treatment for bruises three times daily.
- Another way to do it is to apply a heating pad such as Sunbeam on the bruised area.
- You can also place a bottle filled with warm water on the bruise for 15 minutes three times daily until the itchy bruise heals and go away.
3. Apply Calamine LotionSold widely over the counter, calamine lotion is an effective treatment for itchy skin and will suffice in soothing and getting rid of itchy bruise marks on the skin. Simply apply it topically several times daily and the itching will so go away.
4. Rub Vinegar on the BruiseThe natural healing action of vinegar makes it one of the best home remedies for itchy bruised skin.
- Mix equal parts of white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar) and warm water.
- Rub the solution on the bruised area.
- Use this home remedy several times per day to effectively cure the itchy bruises.
- Rubbing alcohol
Some people have reported Russian vodka as particularly effective remedy for itching bruises and you may want to try it in the place of rubbing alcohol.
5. Apply Arnica Gel or Ointment to the Itchy Bruise
Arnica is extensively hailed for its ability to stimulate blood circulation, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
This homeopathic remedy is most commonly used to treat health conditions ranging from acne to eczema, ulcers, and arthritis among others but its ability to promote blood circulation will in particular come in handy in promoting faster healing of itchy bruises. It also aids in dispersal of blood and other fluids in the bruised area.
Arnica is available in pharmacies, supermarkets, health food stores, as well as online in the form of gels and ointments. Boiron Arnica gel is one good example.
All you have to do is apply the arnica gel or ointment of your choice on the areas of the skin affected by itchy bruise marks several times each day or as directed by the manufacturer. Never take arnica internally (by mouth) as it can cause undesired effects e.g. weakness, vomiting, and higher heart rate, and nervous problems.
You can also make arnica poultice at home and use it to help the itchy bruise go away faster as follows:
- Mix 1 tsp. of dried arnica flower with a glass of water.
- Mix properly, then apply it on the affected areas of skin gently to avoid puncturing the bruise. Never use arnica poultice on broken skin.
- Repeat twice daily until the bruise heals.
6. Swab Some Witch HazelWitch Hazel has long history of alternative medicine uses amongst Native Americans. With powerful healing properties, witch hazel is a great itchy bruise relief remedy. It is especially helpful for bruises due damaged veins on the legs and thighs. Here is how to get rid of itchy bruises by putting witch hazel in action:
- Soak a cotton swab or cosmetic pad with a good witch hazel product such as Thayers.
- Dab it gently on the itching bruise mark for 2-3 minutes.
- Repeat this home treatment routine several times each day until the bruise mark itch and other symptoms clear.
7. Get a Hydrocortisone CreamApplying a hydrocortisone cream is a powerful way to offer relief to a bruise that itches. Apply the cream twice daily or as directed by your doctor or pharmacist. They may prescribe hydrocortisone cream alongside antihistamines.
8. Eat PineapplesEating pineapple is the sweetest way to get rid of itch bruises at home. Pineapples contain a digestive enzyme called bromelain which helps to break down the proteins present at a site of injury. These proteins are responsible for trapping of fluids and their breakdown forms a core part of bruise healing.
If you like the supplements route, take 250-500 mg of bromelain nutritional supplements per day between meals.
9. Soothe the Itchy with Aloe Vera GelWith powerful natural healing properties, aloe vera is one of the best natural remedies to cure itchy bruises at home. Simply squeeze and apply fresh gel from an aloe vera plant leaf or apply an over-the-counter aloe vera gel such as Radha.
10. Heal the Bruise Itch with St. John's Wort OilSt. John's Wort Oil is another effective grandma remedy for bruise marks. Simply mix about 10 drops each of St. John’s Wort Oil and water and then apply the mixture on the bruised area of the skin. Repeat two or three times a day for fast healing action.
11. Apply Parsley on the BruiseParsley is another great natural remedy for itchy bruises. To use it for alleviation of itchy skin around bruise marks, follow the steps listed below:
- Crush a handful of fresh parsley leaves.
- Apply them all over the bruised areas of skin as a paste.
- Wrap a bandage over the paste to keep it in.
- Remove the paste after 15 to 20 minutes.
- Repeat this home remedy frequently to offer relief to itching while speeding up the healing process.
Other Home Remedies for Bruises Itch
- Soak dandelion or hamamelis in cold water at night and then apply it to the areas of the skin affected by bruise marks. Some people will swear that this helps to remove the itching fast especially those that are caused by insect bites.
- Apply coconut oil to the bruise several times throughout the day.
- Rub cucumber slices on the affected areas of the skin a few times each day to soothe the itching. You can also grate cucumber and apply the paste on the bruise for 25 minutes. You can cover the paste with cotton gauze if you like.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking is a circulation buster and will do no favor to healing of itchy bruises.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Vitamin K and Vitamin C sources such as liver and oranges respectively are especially recommended for fixing of itchy bruises as well as toe that are not itchy.
- If you are prone to unexplained bruises (that itch or don’t), taking 50mg twice a day of rutin, a bioflavonoid that helps to strengthen the blood capillaries can help to get rid of the problem especially if accompanied by intake of plenty of vitamin C.
- Rub raw onion slices on the bruise marks and then rinse the skin after 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat twice daily or more until the itching and discoloration subsides. Garlic can also help.
- Better Health Channel: Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
- DianeSays.com: Vitamins and Supplements That Can Cause Bruising in Your Skin
- DoctorLamberts.org: Bruises
- Health Line: Symptoms of Leukemia in Pictures: Rashes and Bruises
- Kreider, R. B., Leutholtz, B. C., Katch, F. I., & Katch, V. L. (2009). Exercise and Sport Nutrition. Exercise & Sport Nutrition.
- Mayo Clinic: Easy Bruising: Common As You Age
- MedHelp.org: Excessively Bruised and Itchy Legs
- Mercola: Reasons Why You Bruise Easily
- NHS Choices: Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
- NIDDK: Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
- WebMD: Bruises