Definition & Overview

The skin protects the body from a variety of threats such as infection, extreme temperatures, and radiation burns. Unfortunately, skin is susceptible to damage, especially wounds due to injuries. In some cases, wounded areas of the skin will be able to heal without medical assistance. But, if the wound is large or deep enough, skin may become infected thereby diminishing its capabilities to heal on its own. Wounds to the skin need to be cared for, regardless of their size, depth, or nature. Scrapes or light abrasions may only require cleaning and the application of antiseptic however, for bigger wounds such as punctures, lacerations, or penetrations that reach the muscles or internal organs, surgery is often required.

Wounds are prone to infection, especially to the bacteria called Clostridium Tetani, which causes tetanus. Tetanus shots and boosters can prevent such infection, which is why most medical facilities administer tetanus vaccines to any wounded patient. However, the vaccine is also available for children who are at least two months to six years old. Boosters are administered to preteens who already have the initial vaccine.

Treatment of any type of wound will depend on its type and the medical condition of the patient. For instance, diabetic patients need to have their wounds treated immediately regardless of the size. Even a small wound can easily become infected due to their weak immune system. Another example is chemical burns that are treated differently than regular burns.

Cause of condition

Skin can be damaged by almost everything. Even scratching an itch using the fingernails can cause a wound. The most common types are the following:

  • Insect bites – some insects are carriers of viruses and bacteria. Mosquitoes can carry the deadly dengue virus and ticks carry an assortment of bacteria that can cause deadly infections.

  • Animal bites – Many animals have rabies, which is deadly to humans.

  • Human bites – 100 per cent of human bites become infected, which is why they need to be treated as soon as possible.

  • Injuries – An injury can cause superficial damage or deep wounds that require surgery.

  • Burns – Burns are classified according to the depth. First-degree burns affect just the skin’s outer layer while second-degree burns affect the layer underneath. Third-degree burns, on the other hand, affect the deepest layer of skin and some tissue. Burns can be caused by hot and cold objects, electricity, chemical, radiation, and friction.

  • Sores – When pressure is applied to the skin for an extended amount of time, it can prevent blood from circulating through the area. This can create sores that can also be easily infected.

Key Symptoms

The most common symptoms of wounds are pain, swelling, and bleeding. Pain is mostly caused by the pain receptors located in the skin. When the wound has gone through all the layers of skin, such as a third-degree burn, the pain may not be too intense.

Wounds can also take the form of blisters. Blisters occur when a small amount of liquid accumulates in a certain area underneath the skin.

When a wound has become infected, the symptoms displayed will be that of the infection. The most common symptoms of infection are fever, pus, warmth around the infected area, and foul odor.

Who to See & Types of Treatment Available

Majority of wounds can be treated at home. Scrapes, small cuts, and abrasions only need to be washed with clean water, disinfected, and dressed to prevent the wound from being exposed to other objects that can cause infections.

For bigger and deeper wounds, it is best to proceed to an emergency department of a hospital, or to the nearest medical clinic that can provide emergency medical care. If you’re unable to proceed to an emergency medical facility immediately, some steps can be taken to prevent excessive blood loss.

Seek immediate medical attention in the following circumstances:

  • If the wound is accompanied by other injuries or trauma.
  • If bleeding continues despite of attempts to control the blood flow.
  • If the wound requires sutures.
  • If the wound is caused by an animal or human bite.
  • If the wound has been infected.
  • If you or the patient does not have tetanus immunization or the immunization is not up to date.

The doctor will treat the wound immediately to prevent further blood loss or to prevent it from being infected. However, the doctor will also check for other injuries. In some cases, the patient will need to undergo an X-ray, CT-scan, or MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Some wounds may not appear to be large on the surface, but there could be major damage underneath the skin. Foreign objects may also be present, such as bullets in gunshot wounds, which need to be removed before closing the wound.

Treatment will depend on the condition of the wound. The doctor will decide on the appropriate form of treatment. These can include:

  • Primary closure – This procedure involves cleaning the wound, checking for foreign bodies, and closing the wound using sutures, staples, or surgical glue.

  • Secondary intention – This procedure involves cleaning the wound and leaving it to heal on its own.

  • Combination of primary closure and secondary intention – In some cases, the doctor will leave the wound to heal for a few days. If the wound does not show any signs of infection, it can be closed using primary closure methods.

If the wound has become infected, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading. Antibiotics may also be prescribed even if the wound is not infected, but has been contaminated.

If the wound is caused by a burn, the wound will be treated according to the type of burn. Most burns can be treated using first-aid techniques. However, some burns, such as chemical and electrical, require specialized treatment.

References:

  • National Wound Care. https://nationalwound.com/
  • Wound Care Education Institute. https://wcei.net/
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