What is Ecchymosis?

Ecchymosis is a discoloration of the skin (typically reddish or bluish).

It results from blood accumulating beneath the skin. In many cases, it’s caused by bruising.

As blood leaks from capillaries, it begins to pool. This leads to the bluish/reddish appearance that ecchymosis is known for.

In this article, we’ll talk about causes, treatments, and prevention.

Ecchymosis – Overview


Any hematoma (bruise) that’s over 1 centimeter in diameter is classified as an ecchymosis.

In many cases, it’s indistinguishable from a hematoma. Keep in mind, though, that both terms are not interchangeable.

Ecchymosis is most commonly caused by pathophysiologic cell function, whereas a hematoma is due to trauma.

Whether you’re suffering from this condition, or you know someone who is, it’s important not to get these two mixed up.

Bottom Line: Any subcutaneous bleeding that’s more than 1 centimeter in diameter is considered an ecchymosis.

Symptoms That May Accompany Ecchymosis

Your symptom might be accompanied by others, including:

  • Inflammation: Depending on the type of tissue damage you’re experiencing, inflammation may occur at the affected site.
  • Pain: Not all patients with this condition will experience pain. However, some will, and you should keep this in mind.
  • Migration: The subcutaneous bleeding may extend from the original site and migrate towards nearby tissues.

The root cause will determine whether it’s inflamed, painful, or migrating. Remember that this condition and hematoma are quite similar.

They both involve blood going where it’s not supposed to. In the next section, we’ll talk about the subtle differences between the two.

Bottom Line: Some accompanying symptoms that you may experience including inflammation, pain, and migration.

Ecchymosis vs. Hematoma – How to Tell the Difference

Both conditions involve blood leaking out of vessels. The primary difference is where the bleeding occurs.

Ecchymosis occurs in mucus membranes as well as in the thin layer of skin. Hematomas, on the other hand, are possible in any organ (they also occur in mucus membranes).

Also, ecchymosis will typically be flat while a hematoma will usually be slightly elevated.

Finally, hematomas are usually more painful since they’re often caused by physical trauma.

Bottom Line: The main differences between an ecchymosis and hematoma include location and shape.

Ecchymosis Causes

Keep in mind that this isn’t a disease. Most of the time it’s harmless and goes away on its own. Other times, it could be due to an underlying medical condition.

While ecchymosis can be caused by blunt trauma, it can also be caused by other things. Therefore, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it.

They’ll be able to determine the root cause so that you can begin the proper treatment (if necessary).

Here are some diseases and conditions that can cause this symptom:

  • Leukemia: Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that involves the white blood cells. It involves the malignant division of WBCs and requires medical intervention to cure. It’s a potential cause to your symptom.
  • Acute Renal Failure: The kidney is a very important organ in the body. If it begins to failure, deadly toxic waste can build up in the blood. As this happens, it can lead to an ecchymosis (or several) showing up on your body.
  • Multiple Myeloma: This is a cancer that affects your plasma cells. It’s a potentially-fatal disease without proper medical treatment. People with multiple myeloma will sometimes develop large subcutaneous blood pools that don’t go away.
  • Liver Cirrhosis: One example of the liver failing is liver cirrhosis. Impairment of the liver can cause ecchymosis to happen throughout the body. There are many things that can lead to liver cirrhosis, which are beyond the scope of this article.

This should give you an idea of what might be causing your symptom. Remember- these are worse case scenarios.

In most cases, it won’t be due to something this serious. In the next section, we’ll talk about various ways to treatment this symptom.

Bottom Line: Your symptom can be due to leukemia, acute renal failure, multiple myeloma, or liver cirrhosis.

Treatment Options

If you leave it alone, your skin discoloration should go away on its own. If it’s associated with severe pain, or if doesn’t show signs of going away, then you will need to see a doctor.

Here are some of the treatment options they will prescribe:

  • Rest: By resting, you’ll allow your tissues and blood vessels to repair themselves naturally. Your body can’t do this if you never take a break.
  • Ice: Ice can help reduce inflammation (if any) as well as treat any pain you’re experiencing. Never apply ice directly to the skin.
  • Elevation: This will help improve your circulation so that your symptom will go away faster. It’s not guaranteed to work though.
  • Pain Relievers: Finally, if the pain is too much to take, then you can take OTC pain medications. Most of the time these aren’t needed.

The main thing is finding out the root cause of your symptom. That way, doctors can treat it.

By fixing the root of the problem, the visual symptoms will go away.

Bottom Line: Some treatment options for ecchymosis include elevation, ice, pain relievers, and rest.

What Now?

Keep an eye on your ecchymosis throughout the next few days. Take notice if it’s changing size, color, or shape.

If it’s getting bigger, or if it isn’t going away, then go see a doctor. As we said earlier, most of the time it will go away on its own.

But in the rare instance that it doesn’t, it might be due to something more serious happening in the body.

Ask a Question: If you want to ask a medical doctor a question that hasn't been answered in one of our articles go to: Ask a Medical Doctor About your Symptoms

Did you find the information in this article helpful?

Leave a Comment