Burns create a unique type of injury to the skin. Unlike a cut, the edges of the injury are rarely close together. Burns often cover large spaces, which makes them harder to heal. How severe the burn is affects the formation of a scar on the skin. Nerve endings damaged by burns can cause loss of feeling in the newly formed skin and sometimes reduce range of motion. A common occurrence in serious burns is the development of hypertrophic scars. These are raised, darker red and more prominent that regular scars, but still stay within the horizontal boundaries of the original wound.
Do Burn Wounds Always Leave Scars?
Until it begins to heal, it’s hard to tell whether your burn will form a scar. Severe burns that require a skin graft to over the wound have a high incidence of scar formation, especially hypertrophic ones. How long the burn injury takes to heal is a good indicator of whether or not it will leave a scar. Studies show that full thickness burns that take three weeks or longer to heal are most likely to scar. Partial thickness burns that are fairly severe, form blisters and heal in two to three weeks may leave scars. Superficial scars that heal in 10 days or less and don’t blister won’t form scars.
Why Are Burns More Likely to Result in Hypertrophic Scars?
One of the reasons that hypertrophic scars form is because there’s a large amount of collagen naturally produced to generate new skin. The collagen fibers in regular scars are less abundant and more organized, so the scar eventually turns pale and flat. The surface on hypertrophic scars forms higher than the surrounding skin. Studies have shown that partial thickness burns that are treated and closed quickly are less likely to become hypertrophic scars than those allowed to heal spontaneously.
How to Heal Burns Better
Here are six tips to help your burn scars heal faster and less prominetly.
1. Immediately after receiving a burn, hold the affected area under cool water for 10 to 15 minutes. If it can’t be submerged or sustained under gently running water, use a cold compress instead. The Mayo Clinic recommends against using ice or cold water on fresh burns.
2. If your burn creates an open wound, or your skin turns black or brown, this is most likely a third degree burn. Seek professional medical attention as soon as possible. The sooner the burn is treated, the less likely it is to scar.
3. If you’ve ever burned your skin, you know that it not only hurts during and after the injury, but it itches through most of the healing process. One of the keys to reducing scars on burned skin is to resist the urge to scratch. Scratching slows the healing process, disturbs the formation of new skin and can also cause an infection.
4. Don’t pop your blisters. This increases the chances for dirt and bacteria to affect the wound, increasing the possibility of infection. Your blisters will eventually degrade on their own.
5. Apply silicone scar gel to the area once the wound has closed. It can prevent scars from forming and help to reduce the prominence of those that have formed.
6. Pressure garments can help to minimize the development of a hypertrophic scar. Consult your physician before attempting do-it-yourself compression therapy.
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