Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
Sunflowers, sunshine, lemonade… there are lots of yellow things to love, but some are just baffling. Like Spongebob or a random yellow bruise on your breast. Weird, right?
We’ll explain what’s up and why you probably don’t need to worry. (About the bruise, of course. No one can explain Spongebob.)
For starters, have you ever wondered why bruises go through psychedelic color transformations?
A bruise forms when a hard blow to soft tissue breaks tiny blood vessels under the skin. The visible bruise can appear well after you suffer a bump so you may not actually remember how it happened.
Check out this rainbow of bruise hues:
- Red: The bruise starts out reddish from oxygen in the fresh blood below the skin’s surface.
- Blue/Purple: After a day or 2 it will start to look more blue or purple, as oxygen fades from the hemoglobin.
- Green: Then bruises may go through a greenish phase as hemoglobin is broken down leaving a pigment called biliverdin.
- Yellow: Finally, biliverdin is converted to bilirubin which makes the bruise look all gnarly and yellow.
Skin color can affect how bruises look. People with medium skin tones tend to have more red and yellow bruises than people with light or dark skin tones.
The good news is yellow is a sign that the bruise is healing up properly. But why would you have a bruise on your breast at all? Besides obvious causes like an injury or rough play, the following things can also cause boob damage.
Yee-ouch! Sometimes breastfeeding is a pain
For some women, breastfeeding is rough, back-breaking, boob-smashing work. As you and baby figure out the best angle of attack, you might suffer a few bruises.
Sure, older babies can get chompy and grabby, but even the tiniest of wee babes can mangle your breasts while you both figure out what works for you. The most likely cause of breastfeeding pain is a poor latch. Your entire areola should be in the baby’s mouth, not just your nipple.
Definitely don’t take it personally if you’re feeling a little black and blue from feeding your baby. Check in with a lactation consultant to help you troubleshoot and find a comfortable fit.
Going under the knife? Bruising is inevitable
Have you decided to give the girls a little lift? Maybe you’re downsizing? Maybe you’re going through the frightening experience of having a biopsy after a sketchy mammogram or a mastectomy to treat breast cancer.
Whatever the reason, surgery is traumatic to tissues and will cause bruising. Follow up with your surgeon to be sure you’re healing well and that your bruises are fading as expected.
So your mind jumped to the Big “C”
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is rare — making up only about 1 percent of all breast cancer cases in the United States — but it’s worth mentioning as a possible cause for changes in breast appearance.
Early signs of IBC are redness and swelling and a heavy feeling in the breast. IBC can progress very quickly so it’s important to notice changes.
These are the key symptoms to look for:
- redness (due to inflammation)
- swelling (as cancer cells prevent lymph from circulating normally)
- hardness of the breast (caused by swelling)
- heat or warmth (another sign of inflammation)
- rough skin resembling the bumpy, pitted peel of an orange
- other changes in skin color or texture of the breast
- swollen lymph nodes under arm or near the collarbone
- flat or inverted nipple
- pain (such as aching or burning in the breast)
Bruises are usually easily explained and are only a minor source of discomfort, fading within a few weeks. If you have a feeling your bruise is tied to something more serious, maybe it’s time for a professional opinion.
Consult a doctor for troublesome bruises if they meet this criteria:
- The bruise is accompanied by pain and swelling.
- Pain persists for more than 3 days after the injury.
- You have a lump or hematoma.
- You’ve noticed abnormal bleeding in other areas like your nose or gums, or a history of abnormal bleeding or bruising.
- You have frequent bruising that seems to have no explanation.
- You have a family history of easy bleeding or bruising, or a blood-related disorder.
It’s also important to contact a doctor if you experience the symptoms of IBC listed above.
If your breast pain is related to breastfeeding, ask your pediatrician or obstetrician about seeing a lactation consultant.
Remember this mnemonic device for treating minor bruises when skin (and bones!) aren’t broken: R.I.C.E.
- Rest. Give your tender boobs a break so the healing can begin.
- Ice. Applying an ice pack for 10 to 20 minutes at a time will reduce inflammation.
- Compress. Try a bra or elastic bandage if it makes the bruised area feel more comfortable.
- Elevate. Your breasts are naturally pretty elevated, but maybe avoid headstands?
You may also want to try an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever, but remember medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can reduce your blood-clotting powers.
- Add ice. Wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply to the bruise for 10 to 20 minutes, several times a day for the first 24 hours.
- Prop it up. Try sleeping with your torso at a 45-degree angle for elevation.
- Be patient. Most bruises take a few weeks to heal.
- Don’t stoke the fire. Heating pads and warm compresses will open blood vessels and increase swelling, the last thing a bruise needs to heal.
- Don’t smoke. Your body needs oxygen to heal, but smoking replaces oxygen in your blood with carbon monoxide. That = slower healing.
- Don’t drink. Especially if you’re having surgery in the next 48 hours. Drinking alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate and could make bruising worse.
- Don’t brush it off. If you experience pain that seems more severe than a minor bruise for more than 3 days, you may have a more serious injury.
There are many causes for easy bruising, and some of them deserve a closer look by a doctor. Here are a few:
- some medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories — aka NSAIDs — anticoagulants, and antiplatelet agents)
- vitamin C and vitamin K deficiency
- alcohol use and liver cirrhosis
- some gastrointestinal diseases
- senile purpura, or easy bruising in older people
Bleeding disorders can also cause excessive bruising. Here are other signs you may have a bleeding disorder:
- a heavy period
- a history of low iron or anemia
- unexplained nosebleeds
- excessive bleeding after a medical or dental procedure
- a family history of a bleeding disorder
Good news, a yellow bruise on your breast is probably nothing to worry about.
If you have other troubling symptoms, see a doctor to rule out serious problems like inflammatory breast cancer or a bleeding disorder. See above for some tips to help bruises heal and give it a few weeks to totally fade.