Scarring is a common outcome of serious burn injuries (second-, third-, and fourth-degree). Burn scars can be painful and constrictive, and greatly affect burn victims’ emotional and social well-being; however, there are treatments available that can help. It is important for burn victims to be proactive in their care and seek out effective treatments in order to reduce scarring and its complications.
Why does the body scar?
Scarring is the body’s natural mechanism for healing from wounds and burns. When the skin sustains injury, the body forms a protein called collagen in the affected area to heal the damaged skin. The body releases excess collagen fibers at the burn site, which come together to create new skin.
Because the fibers develop in a disorganized manner on burn wounds, the resulting scar tissue that develops usually has a different color and texture than the surrounding skin.
What are common types of burn-related scars?
Scars that develop after a burn injury may fall into several different classifications: mature or immature, stable or unstable, and depigmented or hyperpigmented. Below are three of the most common types of burn-related scars.
- Contractures – Contractures are the painful and restrictive types of scars that develop when the scar tissue contracts and the skin pulls together. They can greatly prohibit movement and can cause disability, particularly when they form near the burn victims’ joints.
- Hypertrophic scars – Nearly all burn patients develop hypertrophic scars, which are usually red/purple, raised, and confined to the injury site.
- Keloid scars – These types of scars consist of an overgrowth of scar tissue that develops beyond the burn injury site. The scars can be pink or red, but in many cases, they can fade over time to a more tan color.
Is my burn injury at risk for scarring?
As advanced as medicine and dermatology is, scarring is still unavoidable after many burn injuries, except for minor, first-degree burns.
In the Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, Dr. Arun Goel noted: “Post-burn scars are inevitable even with the best of treatment because they depend upon the depth of burn injury… Except for superficial burn injuries, all burn patients are bound to heal with scars, come what may. These scars on the skin are visible to the patient for the rest of his/her life and cause lifelong agony.”
The likelihood and severity of scarring depends on factors such as:
- The depth, size, and severity of skin damage
- The patient’s genetics
- The patient’s age and gender
- The availability and use of burn and scar treatments
Are there any treatments that can help reduce or prevent scarring?
While scarring is not 100 percent preventable after a burn injury, there are excellent treatments that can help reduce their effect and improve their appearance. Your doctor and burn center team will create a treatment plan that shows the most promise for your particular injuries. Below are some burn scar treatments that may be included in your care plan.
- Physical therapy
- Skin grafts
- Pressure garments
- Emollients, i.e., moisturizers (to keep the skin supple)
- Silicone gel sheets
- Steroid injections
- Wound dressings
- Antihistaminic drugs (to reduce itching)
- Prevention of sun exposure with clothing, SPF, reduced outdoor daytime activity (to prevent excess hyperpigmentation)
Is there anything else I should know about burn injuries?
The scarring and healing process after a serious burn injury is a long and difficult road. Scarring generally peaks at six months, but it can take up to a year and a half or longer for the scars to “mature” and begin to fade and soften.
It is a good idea to look into your legal options after burn accident to see if you are eligible to obtain compensation for your injuries. If your injury was not your fault, you might be able to file a claim and recover medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If you are interested in learning more about your legal options, our lawyer referral specialists can help you find a lawyer. Call today: 844-549-8774.