We’ve all been there: a careless finger slice while chopping vegetables, a head bonk on a sharp cabinet door, or a freshly sliced hand from broken glass. What begins as an accident often winds up as a painful deliberation session as to whether or not to head to the ER or suck it up and dress the wound yourself. While it is unlikely that you can totally avoid developing a scar, stitches from a medical professional are one way to help a deep wound heal properly. You’ll still likely have a small reminder of your mishap, but proper medical attention will help lessen the appearance of scars. Here’s how to reduce scarring and promote a speedy recovery.
Keep It Clean
Puncture wounds are infamous for introducing infection, especially from the bacteria that cause the tetanus infection, Clostridium tetani. Other microorganisms from trauma, ruptured organs, or exposure to gastrointestinal contents can contaminate a wound. Whatever the microbial source, a wound that is not cleaned and sutured as soon as possible not only runs the risk of healing unevenly, but also becoming infected. Contaminated wounds can lead to sepsis, a blood-borne illness that can land you in the hospital for a lot longer than the time it would have taken to suture your wound.
Furthermore, a dirty wound will take much longer to heal than a clean wound, as the body now has two battles to wage. An infected wound must be left open to allow healing to occur from the inside out. Scarring tends to be more extensive with wounds that take longer to heal. A medical professional will often leave a badly infected wound open until there is no longer any evidence of infection. At that point, the wound can be surgically closed.
Surgical Wound Care
Incisions are closed with sutures, staples, or surgical glue, a painless adhesive that minimizes scarring. Sutures or staples are typically removed 7 to 10 days later, though a medical professional may continue wound closure with Steri-Strips to facilitate wound healing. Healing is quickest with a clean, straight incision, which often results in only slight scarring. A large, deep, irregular or infected wound is often allowed to heal from the inside out. While it is difficult to avoid scarring with this type of wound, professional medical oversight of the healing process and final surgical closure will result in a much more neatly closed wound than one that was allowed to heal on its own.
You’ve gotten your stitches and a prescription for antibiotics to keep the microbes at bay; now what? Follow your doctor’s orders to maintain cleanliness and integrity of the wound closure, and don’t forget to be patient. Wounds don’t heal overnight, and healing will pass through many phases before your wound site settles into its final form. Keep your wound clean, and avoid exposing the scarred tissue to sunlight whenever possible.