A skin wound is damage to the surface of the skin.
Types of skin wounds include:
- Puncture—Often caused by a sharp or pointed object. It pierces through the skin. It can also affect the soft tissue beneath it.
- Laceration—The skin is cut open, torn, or torn off completely (avulsion). Lacerations can vary in size and shape, and be deep, shallow, or leave a flap of skin.
- Pressure injury —Lesions are caused by long periods of pressure over a bony part of the body. The hip and heel are common sites for this wound.
- Incision—A surgical wound or intentional cut to the skin.
- Abrasion—The skin is scraped or rubbed off. Minor abrasions affect only the top layer of skin. Deep abrasions affect deeper layers of tissue and are more likely to leave a scar.
- Thermal—Caused by exposure to extreme hot or cold.
- Chemical—Caused by exposure to strong acids or bases such as those found in cleaning products, pool chemicals, or drain cleaners.
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There are many different causes of skin wounds. Some possible causes include:
There are different risk factors for each type of skin wound. Some examples of risk factors:
- Being in an accident
- Handling sharp objects (puncture, incision, or laceration)
- Being confined to bed or wheelchair (pressure sores)
- Occupation or activity choices that involve risky behavior
- Substance abuse
- Mental illness
Besides the obvious damage to your skin, you may also have:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Your wound will be examined.
Depending on the type of wound, your doctor may stage it. This means the doctor will assign a level that describes how serious the wound is. This will help decide how it should be treated.
Your treatment will depend on the type of wound and how severe it is. Options include:
Minor wounds can be treated with self-care, but bites should be evaluated by a doctor.
To take care of your wound:
- Clean debris from the wound by washing it out with lots of clean water.
- Clean the wound with soap and water.
- Apply pressure with a clean towel to stop bleeding.
- Seek medical care if bleeding does not stop within 15 minutes.
- Use a sterile bandage to cover the wound. Keep the bandage clean and dry.
- If possible, elevate the wound above the level of your heart.
- Check the wound regularly for signs of infection. This may include redness, new or worsening pain, and heat.
Skin Closure Strips
Skin closure strips are adhesive strips that can be used to bring the edges of a minor wound together. This will help the wound heal and keep it clean. They may be used for wounds that are clean, have straight edges that line up well, and are easy to push closed.
Skin glue is used to hold a wound together and allow it to heal. It is most often used on the face, arms, legs, and torso. If you have skin glue on a wound, you will need to keep the area clean and dry.
Sutures are used for deep, bleeding wounds. These wounds may have jagged edges that are otherwise difficult to close. In deep wounds, stitches may be needed under the skin before the wound can be closed. These stitches will be absorbed by your body. Your doctor may ask you to come back to remove stitches on the surface of your skin. Keep the area clean and dry.
Staples are best for wounds on the scalp, neck, arms, legs, torso, and buttocks. The wound edges are closed and lined up. The staples are placed along the wound.
Hair tying may be used for scalp lacerations. Hair is gathered in a way that pulls the wound shut. The hair is then held together with a rubber band or skin glue while the wound heals.
Skin grafts may be used when the skin around the wound is too damaged to heal together. This may happen with pressure sores or after skin has been removed in surgery. Skin grafts take healthy skin from another area of the body. This healthy skin is then placed over the wound.
Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat or prevent infection. You may also be given an antibiotic ointment to put on the wound. Depending on how you got your wound, you may need a tetanus or rabies vaccine to prevent infections. You may also need them if they are not up to date.
If your wound is severe, your doctor may also prescribe a pain medication.
There are many causes of skin wounds. Often, they may be due to accidents, which can be difficult to prevent. To help reduce your chance of getting a skin wound, take these steps:
- Be careful when doing activities that can cause skin wounds. For example, use caution when handling sharp objects, such as knives and scissors.
- Avoid going barefoot, especially if you have diabetes.
- If you are confined to bed due to injury or bed rest, change your position often to prevent pressure sores. Check your skin daily for early signs of stress.
American Academy of Dermatology
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Laceration management. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T129892/Laceration-management. Updated October 25, 2016. Accessed September 30, 2016.
Lacerations. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/lacerations-and-abrasions/lacerations. Updated March 2017. Accessed December 14, 2017.
Mammalian bite. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116837/Mammalian-bite. Updated October 27, 2017. Accessed December 14, 2017.
Pressure ulcer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116231/Pressure-ulcer. Updated October 27, 2017. Accessed December 14, 2017.
Pressure ulcers. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/pressure-ulcers/pressure-ulcers. Updated July 2017 2017. Accessed December 14, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD Last Updated: 12/14/2017