- What are skin layers?
- What happens when the skin is injured?
- What are the types of wounds that can injure the skin?
- How are the five types of wounds treated?
You probably don’t think of your skin as being an organ like your stomach or heart, but it’s actually the body’s largest organ. The skin is made up of the epidermis, dermis, hypodermis, and it is part of the integumentary system, which also includes your hair, nails, and even oil glands. The biggest role of your skin is to protect the organs inside the body, encapsulating the whole body in this tough, durable layer of flesh.
When your skin is injured, the wound that occurs can open the rest of the body to infections and make you more vulnerable to illness. This blog will look at the types of wounds your skin can suffer and how they’re treated.
What Are Skin Layers?
The skin has three primary layers:
- The epidermis is the outer layer of skin that creates a waterproof barrier to the organs inside your body.
- The dermis layer falls just under the epidermis and is made up of connective tissues, sweat glands, and hair follicles.
- The hypodermis is the deepest layer of the skin made up of fat and more connective tissue.
The skin plays such an important role in your health. For example, it is a sensory organ that can detect cold and heat, and it acts to cool the internal bodily temperature by producing sweat. It also keeps bacteria and other harmful organisms from invading the body.
What Happens When the Skin is Injured?
Skin wounds can occur on any part of the body. A wound is an injury that involves an external break in the body tissue. Accidents, falls, car wrecks, or even a paper cut can create an open wound on the skin. This is different from skin conditions that can also cause damage to the organ. For example, you could develop skin ailments such as:
- Skin abscess
- Skin cancer
However, none of these ailments are the same as having a skin wound. Let’s look at the five types of wounds that can injure the skin.
What Are the Types of Wounds That Can Injure the Skin?
There are five primary types of wounds that can injure the skin’s surface and even the underlying tissue: abrasions, avulsions, burns, lacerations, and surgical wounds.
1. Abrasions occur from a scrape across a rough surface. They’re superficial in nature and can often be treated at home. Abrasions commonly occur on the ankles, elbows, hands, knees, or shins. These typically are not as serious as other types of wounds which can affect the deeper layers of skin.
Children frequently fall and “skin their knees.” Skateboarders can fall and get “road rash” from sliding across rough pavement. These types of abrasion can be treated with soap and water and some antiseptic lotion. However, some abrasions are worse than others. Your doctor grades abrasions at three levels:
- A first degree abrasion is a superficial scrape that may not even bleed.
- A second degree abrasion affects both the epidermis and the dermis just under the skin.
- A third degree abrasion is more severe and is often called an avulsion wound, which is a tearing of the skin down to the level deeper than the dermis.
2. Avulsions are the most serious level of abrasion that traumatizes all layers of the skin and exposes the underlying bone and muscle. This can commonly happen during motorcycle riding when the person fails to wear protective gear.
Avulsions can be complex to treat. For example, there are avulsion fractures, when the skin tears and the underlying tendon or ligament also pulls off a piece of the underlying bone. These injuries usually occur from a violent incident such as a body-crushing accident, and these wounds often bleed profusely.
3. Burns are painful skin wounds caused by electrical, chemical, electromagnetic, or thermal energy. There are many types of burn injuries. For example:
- Chemical burns singe the skin from acids, detergents, or solvents.
- Electrical burns come from an electrical current.
- Radiation burns come from prolonged exposure to X-ray or other types of ultraviolet energy.
- Thermal burns are caused by an excessive heat source that, when the skin comes in contact, causes the skin tissues to die or char.
There are three classifications for burn injuries:
- First degree burns affect only the epidermis or outer skin layer
- Second degree burns go to the second layer of skin (the dermis)
- Third degree burns destroy the epidermis and dermis and may even damage underlying muscles, tendons, and bones
Burns can be one of the most painful and difficult types of wounds to treat. Extensive burns require specialized wound care and skin graft surgery to replace the destroyed skin areas on the body.
4. Lacerations tear or cut the skin. These often happen on the bony surfaces of the body such as the hand or foot. Unlike an abrasion, there is no skin missing on the typical laceration. These skin wounds are usually caused by blunt trauma to the skin. Lacerations can be surface-level or quite deep. In these cases, the wound will bleed profusely.
5. Surgical wounds are deliberate cuts in the skin to access the internal portion of the body during a surgical procedure. Surgical wounds can vary by size. Most are closed with sutures or staples but sometimes these wounds are left open to heal. There are four categories of surgical wounds:
- Class 1 are clean wounds with no sign of infection or inflammation.
- Class 2 are called clean-contaminated and have an increased risk of infection, often because of where they’re located on the body.
- Class 3 is a contaminated wound where an outside object has entered the skin and there is a high risk of infection.
- Class 4 is called dirty-contaminated because they have come in contact with dirt, debris, or even fecal material.
How Are the Five Types of Skin Wounds Treated?
The type of wound treatment depends on the severity of the skin injury and your overall health. For example, a diabetic may have a relatively minor scrape; however, the disease makes wound care for even the smallest injury difficult. By contrast, a healthy child with a scraped knee can often be treated at home.
Freedom Health & Wellness helps you care for the body’s largest organ—your skin. Talk to us today to learn more about how we serve our patients by helping them heal even the most difficult wounds.