The best way to close a wound – the scar

Graphic: magnified profile of skinInjury of the Skin

When the skin is injured a wound is formed. It can be caused by mechanical injuries (e.g. cuts, stabs, bruises or bites), by heat (e.g. burns or scalds), or by chemical injuries (e.g. acid burns).

Reaction of the body

The body reacts to an injury by following a series of precisely coordinated steps. Each is aimed at closing and healing the wound. Complete healing is possible in internal organs. But in the case of skin wounds, the body can only repair the injury. The “opening” is first closed with a blood clot. Then it is filled in from the inside with connective tissue. The result is a scar.

Scars

Scars differ from the surrounding skin in terms of their function and appearance. In the beginning they are quite red. But later they turn white and remain lighter than the rest of the skin.

Photo: scar on arm

Hairs, sebaceous glands and sweat glands are not reformed in scar tissue. Scar tissue also contains fewer elastic fibers (collagen). This means that the scar may shrivel and harden and shrink inwards. Scar tissue is not replenished as well as other tissues. And the scar tissue contains less water.

Well cared for surgical wounds, which are narrow with smooth edges, usually heal quickly and easily. The resulting scar is very small and thin – almost invisible. But wounds do not always heal so easily. Many wounds affect large areas of skin. Or they have gaping ragged edges which require a considerably longer time to heal. In these scars too, connective tissue fills in the injury. Often a wide, conspicuous and unattractive scar is left behind.

Some scars cause problems both during and after healing. They may not close properly, for example. Or they can become thick, hard and taut. If the scar is on or over a joint, it may be stretched tight and restrict mobility.

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