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Which Burn Injuries Can Completely Heal?

By Butler Prather LLP on July 13, 2018

Burns are severe injuries that can take quite a long time to fully heal. One of the most prevalent questions among burn injury victims is which types of burn injuries can completely heal. Some burns may require surgical intervention to restore function in the affected areas, while other burns may leave permanent scarring and disfigurement. The type of burn, the severity, and the location of the burn on the victim’s body are all important factors when it comes to predicting recovery.

What is the Degree Scale for Burns?

Most burns that affect the surface of the skin fall into a degree scale for classification. Depending on how far through the layers of the skin the burn has reached, physicians assign it the appropriate degree. First-degree burns are generally mild and common injuries when cooking or handling hot objects. Most people can treat first-degree burns with over-the-counter remedies such as burn gel and bandages. However, if a first-degree burn covers more than 10% of the surface area of the skin or affected a sensitive area such as the face or groin, the victim should seek medical attention.

A first-degree burn will typically appear red for several days after the initial injury but will fade with minimal chance of scarring over time. A second-degree burn penetrates more deeply through the layers of the skin and will therefore require a longer recovery time. Scarring is more likely with second-degree burns, but there are many remedies available to treat scarred skin. A third-degree burn results in complete destruction of all the layers of the skin, so the wound will not heal properly without surgical intervention. Some third-degree burns may require skin grafting procedures, in which a surgeon attaches healthy donor skin to a burn injury in the hope it will bond to the victim’s remaining skin cells and heal.

Infection can also complicate the healing process and damage the tissues of the injury site. If a person suffers a serious burn injury that results in an open wound, the wound is very vulnerable to infection. Serious burns may also result in limited mobility in the affected area. For example, a third-degree burn that covers the victim’s arm at the elbow may make it difficult or impossible for the victim to move his or her arm.

Overcoming Limited Mobility

When a burn affects one of the limbs, restoring function to that part of the body can be a time-consuming and difficult process. Scarred skin loses its natural elasticity, making it more difficult to stretch. This can cause an itching or burning sensation around the edges of the scarred skin where it meets healthy skin. Since the healthy skin can still stretch properly, it effectively pulls the scarred skin in uncomfortable ways, sometimes restricting range of motion or causing intense pain.

Skin grafting procedures, pressure bandages, dermatological treatments, occupational therapy, and topical medications can all help heal a burn injury and help the victim reclaim some lost function. However, the maximum possible recovery depends on the severity of the initial injury. A burn that covers a large part of the surface area of the skin will require more extensive treatment and rehabilitation.

Long-Term Medical Complications from Burns

Thermal burns from flames, explosions, and contact with hot surfaces or liquids generally result in scarring and limited mobility in the affected parts of the body. Some types of burns can result in more serious long-term medical conditions. Chemical burns can result from exposure to toxic substances that may also cause illness or brain damage. Electrical burns can create cardiovascular issues and neurological problems. Radiation burns may lead to certain types of cancer. Ultimately, anyone who suffers any type of burn injury should pay close attention to his or her physician’s advice concerning treatment and recovery.

Posted in: Burn Injury

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