What are burns?
Burns are death and necrosis of a tissue due to heat.
Burns may occur due to dry heat, (in form of fire) wet heat (in
form of scalds) or electrical burns.
Q: What are the different types of burns.
Burns are divided into 3 different types:-
(I) First degree or superficial burns
:- It is commonly seen
with a sunburn. It is usually red and blanches (becomes white) on
pressure. It occurs due to damage to only the top (epidermis) layer
of the skin. It heals by itself in 3-6 days and generally dose not
(II) Partial thickness burns or second degree burn
:- It involves
the entire epidermis and some portion of the dermis. They are of
Superficial partial thickness burn:- They are painful
and associated with blisters. They heal within 3 weeks without any
visible scars. There may be some pigment changes.
Deep partial thickness burns :- They are dry white in
color. They may cause scarring and take longer to heal. Skin grafting
is usually required for healing.
Full thickness burns
:- They involve the entire epidermis and
dermis. They are dry and leathery in appearance. They cause scarring
and require immediate skin grafting and use of compression garments.
What happens in a burn?
Heat damages the cells of the skin releasing chemicals
that stimulate nerves and cause pain. Burn heals when a new layer
of skin grows in from the edges of the burn. However, if the burn
is very large or very deep, bacteria may invade and cause infection.
Also due to evaporation of fluids from the open wound, the patients
may get dehydrated. Hence the 2 major short term complications of
burns are infection and dehydration
. Long-term, during healing,
the wound may start shrinking or becoming smaller leading to contractures.
Contracted tissue may lead to a loss of normal motion if present
in the limbs and can also cause a distorted appearance due to pull
on the surrounding healthy tissue. In a burn patient, sensations
of hot, cold, wetness, dryness, touch and pain may change even permanently
. A patient post-burn will not to be able to sweat properly due
to damaged sweat glands. Hence appropriate clothing as per the season
is required (cotton in summer and warm clothing in winter)
Skin color is determined from the melanin and
carotene pigments in the epidermis. Melanin protects the skin from
sunburn. After a burn, the burnt skin may not be able to produce
melanin, hence leading to sun burn. Also the skin may become lighter(depigmented
or hypopigmented ) as compared to the normal skin or darker (hyperpigmented).
How does exercise help a burn patient?
Exercise helps the body heal better. It helps a burn patient
to regain independence.
Q: How do you treat the skin discoloration
that occurs with healing?
UV protection is required for 12-18 months post burn and
these patients should apply sunscreen lotion when going out in the
sun. Camouflage cosmetics to cover the burns can be used. Hair coloring
products can be used 6 weeks after healing is completed. Permanent
products can be used 3 months after healing.
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created on 8-12-2000
updated on 18-11-2006