How often have you touched a hot, burning oven or dropped some scalding water or oil on yourself while cooking in the kitchen? If you can relate with this, you must definitely be having burn scars scattered all over your hands, right?
Burn scars can also be caused by exposure to certain chemicals, UV rays and severe fire accidents. While some burn scars fade away on their own, the others take a long time to heal and may even become a permanent part of your skin.
In this article, we tell you immediate steps to follow after a burn to prevent and treat scars.
Why Do Scars Form After Burns?
Burns cause your cells to die, after which the skin produces a fibrous protein to repair itself. This fibre is called collagen. As your skin heals, it leaves discolored patches of skin on the wounded area. These areas are usually thick and are what we call scars. Depending on the depth of the burn, these scars may be temporary and sometimes even permanent.
Types Of Burn Scars
Firstly, let us look at the types of burns:
1. First-Degree Burns
First-degree burns are usually associated with a damaged epidermis (surface of the skin). You may also notice some redness, pain and inflammation.
2. Second-Degree Burns
Second degree burns damage the first two layers of your skin. This causes your skin to turn red and get inflamed. You may also find them quite painful.
3. Third-Degree Burns
These burns are the more severe kinds of burns. Along with damaging the layers of your skin, they may also penetrate your skin to reach your tissues and muscle structures. Your skin may change color as well. These burns can also restrict joint movement.
Now, here are the types of scars that burns can leave behind:
1. Hypertrophic Scars
These scars are usually red or purple in color. They tend to be raised and itchy.
2. Contracture Scars
These scars usually tighten the skin and muscles. If you have a contracture scar, you may notice difficulty in moving.
3. Keloid Scars
These kinds of scars form shiny, hairless bumps on the skin.
Treatments For Burn Marks
The ideal treatments for burn scars depends on how severe it is and the degree of burns.
For first-degree burns, apply an antibiotic cream to the affected area. This will help the wound heal faster and will also reduce inflammation and discomfort. Use a piece of gauze to cover your burn mark to prevent infection.
For second/third-degree burns, wearing a compression garment can help heal your skin faster. These are usually tight garments that may have to be worn for many months till your burn marks heal. Some may even prefer a skin graft. This technique involves using the skin from one area (donor) of your body to cover the burned area.
Here are some other therapies/treatments for burn marks:
1. Laser Therapy
Laser light therapy uses UV rays to target blood vessels in the excess scar tissues. This can help in reducing bumps and redness associated with scarring (1).
In case you decide on going in for laser therapy, make sure your doctor has experience in scar removal treatments using the same.
2. Steroid Injections
Corticosteroid injections can be used to soften the appearance of a scar. They work well to reduce the appearance of certain hypertrophic and keloid scars (2).
Talk to your doctor about whether or not these injections can be used to treat your burn scars.
This technique uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the developing scars. It can be used on keloid scars to soften them before they completely emerge. Cryotherapy has shown some promising results in treating keloid scars (3).
Surgery may be used to treat a scar if it is very prominent on your skin or to improve movement.
Surgery can help soften the appearance of your scar and make it less noticeable. It can also help loosen a tight scar that prevents movement of a joint.
This procedure is an invasive technique that may not suit everybody. Based on your doctor’s recommendations, you can choose whether or not to go in for surgery.
Physiotherapy may help improve your movement in areas that have been tightened after the burn marks.
6. Silicone Gels
These help in effectively softening a scar. They can be used on healing scars (not open wounds). Silicone gels to address scarring has become a popular method in the recent past (4).
Moisturizers may not treat the scar. However, it can soften the appearance of it. These need to be used consistently for three months for about 12 hours everyday. Talk to your dermatologist about the right silicone gel treatment for your scar.
How To Prevent Burn Scars From Forming?
As Soon As The Burn Occurs, A Person Can
- Rinse it with cool water and let it dry.
- Use an antibiotic ointment.
- Cover the area using a nonstick bandage and a piece of gauze.
You Can Also Try To
- Stretch the affected area gently to prevent the skin from sticking together.
- Cover the affected area for a few months to prevent sun damage.
Visit your doctor regularly till your burn heals. Make sure that you address your burn as soon as it occurs. If you notice too much redness and don’t see it heal, visit your doctor.
Complications Related To Burn Marks
A burn is an open wound that allows bacteria and other microbes to enter the body, if not treated properly. This can result in minor or severe infections. It can also result in sepsis, if these microbes enter your bloodstream, which can be life-threatening.
When you burn your skin, it is likely that your body will lose some fluids. If left untreated, burn marks can also cause dehydration.
3. Restricted Movement Or Contractures
This can be the result of a third-degree burn. Contractures occur when the skin is healing, which may cause it to feel tight. This may restrict the movement of your joints.
4. Muscle And Tissue Damage
Severe burns can sometimes damage your tissue muscle structures.
5. Emotional Health
The appearance of burn marks or any other complications may take a toll on a person’s mental health. It is advised to seek professional help if these marks are interfering with your quality of life or your emotional state of mind.
Treatment for burn scars are classified depending on their depth and how many layers of your skin they affect. Complications of burn marks include contractures, infections, emotional health issues, muscle damage and dehydration. Remember to take immediate precautions and visit your doctor soon after a burn.
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