Blood Clot or Bruise: Know The Difference

Blood Clot or Bruise: Know The Difference

Both bruises and blood clots can appear similar to the untrained eye and it may be difficult to distinguish which condition it is. A bruise is usually a minor, superficial injury whereas a blood clot is a serious condition that can turn into a medical emergency.

Blood clots & bruises are similar because they both involve blood vessels, however, there are several important differences.


A fall, cut, or blunt force trauma can cause tiny blood vessels called capillaries to burst. This can lead to pooling of blood just below the surface of the skin, making the skin look discolored. This discoloration is what is call a bruise. Most bruises are only slightly painful, however depending on location & extent of trauma, some can range from mild to severe on the pain chart.

As the blood loses oxygen, it may appear black or blue. In fact, the skin color in the bruised area changes throughout the healing process, often turning red, green or yellow. Bruises can occur anywhere on the skin surface.

Every human being will probably get bruised several times in the course of his/her life. The risk factors include:

  • Certain medications like aspirin, warfarin, ibuprofen (blood thinners)
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Blunt force trauma – bumping into something, something falling on you etc.
  • Falls, cuts, etc.
  • Vitamin C deficiency
  • Thin skin and fragile blood vessels
  • Intense physical activity (sport, gym activity)

Blood Clots

Blood clots are semisolid blood masses which form when blood vessels get injured due to cuts, blunt force, or excess lipids in the blood. Platelets and proteins in blood plasma coagulate and form clots to stop injuries from bleeding. These clots usually dissolve on their own, but this doesn’t always happen & can lead to serious consequences. Blood clots may exhibit different symptoms depending on where they have formed:

  • The blood clot in the intestinal artery or mesenteric ischemia can cause stomach pain, bloody stools, and nausea.
  • Blood clots in the veins of legs can lead to pain, redness, inflammation, and tenderness in the leg
  • Blood clots in the leg’s artery can lend a pale appearance to the leg and cause it to feel cold
  • Blood clots in the lungs are called pulmonary embolus; it can lead to chest pain, rapid breathing, shortness of breath etc.
  • The blood clot in the brain’s artery can cause a stroke, leading to slurred speech, blurry or lost vision, and weakness in one side of the body.
  • The blood clot in the coronary artery leads to a heart attack and can cause the person to sweat, have nausea, chest pain, and breathing difficulties.

There are many different risk factors for excessive blood clot formation.

Lifestyle factors:

  • Smoking
  • Sedentary life
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Hormone treatments
  • Prior surgery or trauma (recent)

Genetic Factors:

  • Miscarriages
  • History of blood clots before turning 40
  • Family history of blood clots


  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Vasculitis
  • Atrial fibrillation

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, you will need to be evaluated by a doctor. The doctor may use several methods like the physical exam, x-ray, ultrasounds, venography and blood tests, to determine the type of injury you have & what treatment to give. Just walk into any of our Urgent Care Clinics. Medical Access has 3 conveniently located clinics at Germantown, MD, Alexandria, VA, and Woodbridge, VA. We guarantee minimal waiting and maximum care.