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 that pierces through the skin. It can also affect the soft tissue beneath it.
- Laceration—The skin is cut open, torn, or torn off. Wounds can vary in size and shape, and be deep, shallow, or leave a flap of skin.
- Pressure injury —These wounds are caused by long periods of pressure over a bony part of the body. The hip and heel are common sites.
- 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 common causes are:
There are different risk factors for each type of skin wound. Some examples are:
- Being in an accident
- Handling sharp objects (puncture, incision, or laceration)
- Being confined to a bed or wheelchair (pressure sores)
- Jobs or activities that involve risky behavior
- Substance abuse
- Mental health problems
The main symptom is damage to the skin. A person may also have bleeding and pain.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. The wound will be examined. This is enough to make the diagnosis.
Treatment will depend on the type of wound and how severe it is. Options are:
Minor wounds can be treated with self care, such as:
- Cleaning debris from the wound and washing it with warm soap and water
- Applying pressure with a clean towel to stop bleeding
- Covering the wound with a sterile bandage and keeping it clean and dry
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.
Sutures are used for deep, bleeding wounds that may have jagged edges that are hard to close. Stitches may be needed under the skin before the wound can be closed. These stitches will be absorbed by the body. The stitches on the surface of the skin will need to be removed after the area has healed.
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.
Skin wounds are often due to accidents. These are hard to prevent. To lower the risk:
- Use caution when handling sharp objects
- Do not walk barefoot
- Follow product instructions when using strong chemicals
American Academy of Dermatology
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Laceration management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/laceration-management. Accessed September 16, 2021.
Lacerations. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/lacerations-and-abrasions/lacerations. Accessed September 16, 2021.
Mammalian bite. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/mammalian-bite. Accessed September 16, 2021.
Pressure injury of the skin and soft tissue. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pressure-injury-of-the-skin-and-soft-tissue. Accessed September 16, 2021.
Pressure ulcers. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/pressure-ulcers/pressure-ulcers. Accessed September 16, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN Last Updated: 9/16/2021