A skin graft is a surgical procedure in which sections of your own healthy skin are used to replace the scar tissue caused by deep burns. Donor skin from deceased donors or pigs can be used as a temporary solution. When a burn occurs, it basically ruins the collagen in your skin. The scar is the skin’s attempt to heal itself by creating new collagen fibres that are often discolored; which is why scars are usually paler than the rest of your skin. If the burn is severe, the scars can be bumpy rather than flat.
An explosion can occur in the workplace, in the home or after a motor vehicle crash. No matter the cause, an explosion can leave victims with severe burns that are likely to turn into lifelong scars. Burn scarring occurs in about 70 percent of burn injury patients. These scars have the potential of causing both physical and psychological pain. Depending on what part of the body was injured, the patient’s range of motion may be limited. Moreover, the scar is a constant visual reminder of the traumatic event they had to experience.
Will my burn injury turn into a scar?
While there is not a definite answer, typically, the greater the severity of the burn, the greater the chances that a scar will be present. For example, less severe burns known as first-degree burns, take less than ten days to heal. Most of the time, first degree burns have no scarring. However, second-degree burns that heal in 14 to 21 days put the individual at risk of scarring. Further, third-degree burns are severe burns that take more than 21 days to heal. In some instances, third-degree burns that require skin grafting are at high risk of scarring.
Scarring after a burn usually develops within the first few months with a peak around six months and will resolve in 12-18 months. Scars tend to fade in color, flatten and become less sensitive as they mature.
Itching after a burn injury
Burns have the potential of damaging or completely destroying the oil glands that are meant to prevent the skin from getting too dry. Partial thickness burns (second-degree burns) are left with a few oil glands while full thickness burns (third-degree burns) are left with no oil glands. Dry, itchy scars will result from the lack of oil glands.
It is common for patients to experience intense itching after their burn. A moisturizer is a great way to reduce the uncomfortable itching. Ask your doctor to recommend a moisturizer that is best for your situation as they come in many varieties. For example, a high water content moisturizer tends to soak in the skin faster needing frequent application. Thicker moisturizers that typically come in a tube or jar have less water and can be applied less frequently.
Tips to help with an itchy scar
- Never use mineral oil, Vaseline or antibiotic ointments for moisturizing purposes. These products can lead to skin breakdown and allergic reactions.
- Moisturizers can be applied to all healed areas frequently throughout the day.
- At first, apply the moisturizer gently in thin layers. As your scars start to mature, add more pressure to help loosen the stiffness of the scars.
- Avoid soaking in a hot bathtub or using perfumed soaps because they will dry your skin further and intensify the itching.
Hypertrophic burn scars
The most common complication of a burn injury that leads to both functional and aesthetic impairments is called a hypertrophic burn scar. They develop when excess collagen fibers pull tissue across the injured area. These scars develop above the skin’s surface within the first few months of the injury and have a deep red to purple color.
Various issues may arise from a hypertrophic burn scar including uncomfortable itching that can lead to skin breakdown, depression because of the low self-esteem the scar has caused and sensitivity to the sun and chemicals. One of the more severe issues is contractures.
Scars that develop across joints are known as contractures, which can affect your ability to properly take care of yourself and move around as you please. These scars may cause difficulty when squatting, sitting, walking or climbing stairs if your contractures involve your legs. Difficulty with self-grooming, eating, getting dressed and bathing may arise if your contractures involve your arms.
What can I do to prevent scarring after a burn injury?
While there is not a guarantee that a scar won’t form after a burn injury, the best treatment for a scar is prevention. Not all scars are 100 percent preventable, but you should be able to improve your chances of no scarring after a first-degree burn or minimize the scarring after a second-degree burn injury by following these tips:
- Rinse the affected area in lukewarm water and let the skin air dry.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment to the burn to help prevent an infection.
- Cover the burn with a nonstick bandage with gauze around it.
- To prevent contracture, stretch the burned area for a few minutes daily.
- If a blister forms, do not pop it! Once the blister pops on its own, cut away the dead skin.
- Avoid sun exposure to the burned area, as it will be sensitive for several months.
- Check in with your doctor to ensure your burn is healing properly.
If scarring is preventing you from performing certain activities, surgical treatment is an option. Talk to your physician for an evaluation if this is something you are considering.
Tips to help prevent contractures
Although not all contractures are avoidable, many can be prevented if the patient remains active in a rehabilitation program and takes care of their injury. Below are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Moisturize the affected area with a moisturizer recommended by your doctor
- Stretch for a minimum of five to six times daily
- Do as much for yourself as possible when getting dressed and grooming. Although the amount of time it takes for you to get ready is frustrating, movement and activity will improve your ability to move and take care of yourself.
Strong commitment from the patient is required to ensure the best result. Family members can help the burn victim by showing support and encouraging them to push through the frustration and not give up.
How The Carlson Law Firm can help
We understand that some of the most devastating effects of an injury are the scars they leave behind. If you sustained burn injuries due to the negligence of another, you may be entitled to compensation for your past and future medical expenses, pain, suffering, a decrease in quality of life, lost wages and more. An Explosion Lawyer from The Carlson Law Firm has the experience and resources to help navigate the legal system. We can help you prove negligence to hold the party that caused your injuries accountable. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We care, we can help.
Whether from cuts, scrapes, burns, or other injuries, most people carry scars with them throughout life. And for those people, it's likely they're curious about how to remove them or lessen their appearance.
This is a question that Dermatologists receive regularly, considering how you can pick up scars from many places—even too much sun damage can lead to sunburn scars. Although Derms never like to see skin damage, they can help you learn how to fade burn scars and other blemishes. Here is some general information on scarring and tips on how to both prevent lasting markings and fade burn scars once they've already occurred.
How a Scar Forms
Regardless of the event (or habit) that led to the damage, your skin is at risk of scarring from any injury. Trauma elicits a cascade of events that starts with hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and scar maturation.
Essentially, the injury elicits signals to first stop the bleeding and recruit the immune cycle to clean up the wound and fend off infection. Then, your skin starts to heal by stimulating the production of fibroblasts (the cell that makes up the body's connective tissue) and keratinocytes (the cell type that primarily makes up the epidermis) to rebuild the intricate layers of the skin. This all starts very quickly, beginning within minutes and lasting many days depending on the severity of the injury. Once a fresh scar has formed, the scar tissue continues to remodel and strengthen over the course of months.
How the scar ultimately will look depends on how well you take care of your skin during the initial healing phase. The first few days to weeks are an absolutely critical period for scar reduction that requires meticulous wound care to minimize the appearance of the mark left behind. See below for tips on wound care.
How to Fade Burn Scars—Immediate Aftercare
If you've just suffered a severe burn, here's how to treat the area to minimize scar appearance.
Whether you've experienced a sunburn, a burn from heat, or any other trauma that has broken the skin, you should begin by washing the injury. Gently and thoroughly clean the wound with soap and water. Any foreign matter will slow healing and could cause infection, ultimately increasing the visibility of the scar.
Burn Scar Tattoo
Next, apply petroleum jelly and bandages to keep your damaged skin covered and moist. These are the conditions under which skin does its best and fastest healing. For larger or deeper wounds, consider applying a high-quality topical antimicrobial medicine, such as EltaMD Silver Gel, directly against the wound under the petroleum jelly. This will further minimize risk of infection and speed healing.
Be sure to change your wound dressing daily until the skin has completely reepithelizalized—regenerates, that is—closing the wound to the outside environment. Until then, you should keep the damaged skin moist with antimicrobials and petroleum jelly and covered by bandages for as much of the time as possible. You may have heard that letting a healing wound 'breathe' helps the healing process, but this is untrue—it may actually cause additional discomfort and disrupt the healing process.
Burn Scars Hands
Following Up and Care for Older Scars
After the skin has healed over, there will continue to be discoloration of the skin; this will take many more months to finally settle down. This dyspigmentation, either darker or lighter in color, is more pronounced and takes longer to fade in individuals with a darker skin tone. Just as ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun causes your healthy skin to change color, exposure to UV light can cause persistent discoloration. To minimize the red to brown color, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to the scarred area daily. In fact, you'd be doing your body a favor by applying a daily sunscreen to any exposed skin, but this is especially important for scars and damaged skin. Be sure to touch up those areas too, taking care to reapply every 2 hours or as needed.
In the case that your scars are older and you're just now looking to lessen their appearance, a silicone gel may help soften and lighten the damaged tissue. Sun care remains key as long as the scar is exposed to the sunlight. Don't put too much stock in over-the-counter scar removers and reducers, as results are mixed. The American Association of Dermatology also recognizes steroid injections, laser treatments, and surgery as possible solutions for scar reduction, especially for keloid, the raised pink scars that some get.
Finally, if the burn or wound is deep or there are concerns of infection, see a doctor or your board-certified Dermatologist immediately for proper medical treatment. After the initial threat of the wound has been dealt with, your Derm will be happy to discuss treatment options with you that should help minimize the residual signs of damage. They will also work with you to develop a treatment regimen for older burns and scars that you may have collected through life but are interested in kicking to the curb. Remember: Dermatologists are your ultimate ally in all things skin!