Most of us have experienced a hematoma at some point in our lives. They can be on our leg, arm, or ribcage, and most of the time, they don’t cause any problems.
But there are types of hematomas that can be life-threatening. For example, bleeding in the skull is called a subdural hematoma, and it results in death 50% of the time.
If you’re looking for some help with hematomas, then the good news is you’re in the right place. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about hematomas and when you need to take them seriously.
What Is a Hematoma?
A hematoma occurs when there is damage to the larger blood vessels in your body and can occur on any blood vessel, vein, or artery.
You might notice a discoloration to your skin similar to a bruise after an injury or surgery. This discoloration is due to the blood collecting outside your blood vessels.
Hematomas are similar to hemorrhages, but the difference is with a hematoma, the ongoing bleeding has stopped, and blood has already clotted.
Hematoma vs. Bruise
While bruises and hematomas may look similar, there are distinct differences between a bruise vs. a hematoma. A bruise typically results from a mild to moderate injury to the small blood vessels under your skin.
These blood vessels break and leak under your skin and are tender to the touch. Bruises can be red, purple, blue, or black as it goes through different healing stages. Once the body begins to reabsorb the blood, the bruise eventually becomes lighter until it disappears.
Hematomas occur from an injury to a larger blood vessel which causes blood to pool under the skin. Hematomas also feel spongy and lumpy, appearing anywhere in the body. A hematoma can happen anywhere in your body and usually doesn’t cause concern. However, certain types of hematomas can turn into medical emergencies, like a hematoma in the brain.
Types of Hematomas
The type of hematoma is determined by where it appears on your body. The location of the hematoma is also a clue to how potentially dangerous it could be. Common types of hematomas include:
An ear hematoma typically occurs on the cartilage of the ear. It commonly occurs in athletes like wrestlers or boxers that frequently sustain blows to the head and ears.
A scalp hematoma will appear as a bump on the head. The damage from a scalp hematoma is to the skin and muscle only and doesn’t affect the brain.
A septal hematoma is typically the result of a broken nose. A large hematoma often forms, and you need to follow up with your doctor to make sure you don’t have long-term complications with healing.
You’ll find a subungual hematoma under the nail. This type of hematoma is common in minor injuries like accidentally smashing your finger with a hammer.
Subcutaneous hematomas appear just under the skin, usually in the shallow veins closer to the surface caused by a minor injury.
A hepatic hematoma occurs in the liver, and a splenic hematoma appears in the spleen. You can also get a hematoma between your vertebrae and spinal cord lining called a spinal epidural hematoma.
The most severe type of hematoma is a subdural hematoma which is found in the skull between the brain tissue and lining of the brain.
The symptoms of superficial hematomas are easiest to recognize. You’ll notice discoloration to the area immediately after the injury followed by:
- Redness and tenderness
- Warmth to the skin
Internal hematomas aren’t always easy to recognize. So if you’ve been in an accident and sustained an injury, make sure you see a doctor for an examination. Your doctor can evaluate your injuries and assess for injuries and hematomas.
Hematomas inside your skull are the most dangerous. If you’ve experienced a blow to the head, it’s critical to see a doctor right away. Symptoms of subdural hematomas can take up to 72 hours to occur in many cases. Symptoms to watch out for include:
- Severe headache that continues to get worse
- Hearing loss
- Uneven pupils
- Feeling sleepy and drowsy
- Difficulty moving your arms and legs
- Eventual loss of consciousness
The most common cause of hematomas is trauma and injuries. Serious injuries from car accidents, falling, or any type of collision can cause a hematoma. Even less severe injuries like stubbing your toe can lead to a hematoma.
Medical, cosmetic, and dental surgeries can all lead to damage to blood vessels, causing hematomas. If you take blood thinners like aspirin or warfarin, you are more likely to experience bleeding problems and hematomas.
Sometimes a hematoma can appear without any known cause and will heal on its own without any treatment. If you notice multiple hematomas forming and not healing on their own, you should make an appointment with your doctor.
Treatment and Prevention
In many cases, hematomas don’t require any treatment as your body will reabsorb the hematoma over time.
You can use a splint or bandage to the area around the hematoma to keep the blood vessels from reopening while they heal.
If you have a large hematoma, it might require surgical drainage. You’re more likely to have surgery if the hematoma puts pressure on your brain, spinal cord, or other organs.
You can also prevent hematomas after surgery by taking certain precautions. Avoiding any blood-thinning medications, including aspirin, during and after surgery can help minimize your risks. You can discover more here about what else you can do to keep yourself hematoma-free after surgery.
Now that you know what to look for, you’ll be able to treat your next hematoma with ease. Remember, with a bit of rest and recovery, you’ll be back to yourself in no time.
And be sure to follow up with your doctor if you’ve had an injury that has caused a hematoma. Your doctor can assess your injuries and track your healing progress too.
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