What are the different types of scars?
Flat, pale scars
These are formed as a result of the body's natural healing process. They appear right after the wound has started to heal and are initially raised, and a red or dark colour. As the healing progresses, the scar becomes flatter and more pale in colour. However, this process can take up to 2 years and visible evidence of the original wound will always be present.
Keloid scars occur when there is an overgrowth of tissue from too much collagen being produced at the site of the wound. These types of scars keep growing even after the wound has healed. Keloid scars appear most often around the breastbone, upper arms and shoulders, upper back, and ear lobes. The following are the characteristics of keloid scars:
- Often raised above the skin
- Feels itchy and even painful
- Appears much larger than the original wound
- Causes burning sensation and feels tender to touch
- Prevents too much movement if it is positioned near a joint
- Hairless and appears shiny
- Feels hard and "rubbery" in texture
These are the result of an imbalance in the production of collagen in a healing wound. Unlike a keloid scar, hypertrophic scars do not extend beyond the original wound area however they may continue to thicken for up to 6 months. They usually appear red and raised and are confined along the wound area. They may also develop the following characteristics for around 2 to 5 years:
- Restricted movement as a result of the non-flexible scar tissue
- Heals within the size of the original wound
- Thicker than usual
- Initially red and raised and develops into a flatter and paler colour over time
Pitted or sunken scars (atrophic or "ice-pick" scars)
Acne scarring is the most common example of pitted or sunken scars. They can also be caused by chickenpox and injuries which resulted in the loss of underlying fat in the skin.
These are commonly caused by burns and results when the skin "shrinks" and leads to tightness and restriction in movement.
How is a scar developed?
Scars are formed when the thick layer of the skin called the dermis is damaged. In order for the wound to heal, a naturally occurring protein in the body called collagen will help in the healing process. This will help form the tissue, which results in a scar.
How do you treat scars?
Here are some of the methods used to help relieve scarring:
Over the counter or prescription creams, ointments or gels
This is the most popular and perhaps the easiest and most accessible option. Creams, ointments and gels can be used to help scars caused by cuts, minor skin injuries or wounds, surgical scarring, acne scars and scars caused by an allergic reaction. Some examples are BioOil skincare products, Hirudoid Cream, Hiruscar, and Naturopharm Calendula Cream among others.
The different surgical methods available for scars are skin grafts, excision, dermabrasion or laser surgery. Skin grafts use skin from another area of the body and are appropriate for scars caused by burns. Surgery may be recommended for those who have scars that impair their functioning.
Steroid injections are often recommended for keloids or hypertrophic scars. Collagen injections are popular for pitted scarring as a result of acne.
How to prevent scarring
There is no prevention for scarring - if you have a wound or injury, a scar is part of the natural healing process. However, you can take steps to help the healing process and minimise the appearance of the scarring.
Clean cuts, scrapes or other skin injuries well by gently washing the injured area using mild soap and water. This will help to keep out the germs and remove other particles that may cause infection.
Keep your wound moist as this will help the skin heal better. Petroleum jelly is a good recommendation because it prevents the wound from drying and forming a scab. Wounds that form scabs take longer to heal.
After cleaning and applying petroleum jelly or another wound moisturiser, cover it with an adhesive bandage. This will prevent other germs from penetrating the wound. As long as the wound is cleaned daily, there is no need to apply an antibacterial ointment.
Change the bandage daily. This is necessary to keep off secondary infections. If you have allergies or sensitivities to adhesives, use a non-adhesive gauze pad with paper tape.
If you had stitches on your wound, follow your doctor's advice on how to care for it properly. This may help in minimising the appearance of the scar.
Apply sunscreen to the wound after it has healed. Doing this helps reduce redness or brown discolouration and helps in making the scar fade more quickly.
Page updated 06/04/18 12:47:36 p.m.