Christmas is over and the new year is fast approaching, which means it is time to take down the Christmas tree and unstring the outside lights. Not only is this an unpleasant chore, but it is also a task that results in wounds for many people. Hospitals see a lot of traffic from people who have fallen from ladders, cut their arms against the sharp edges of roofs, or been poked too hard by an unruly Christmas tree. A few of the most common causes of wounds are falls, accidents with sharp objects, and car crashes.
A wound is defined as an injury that disrupts the integrity of the skin and underlying tissues. A wound may be open or closed – open wounds are injuries which result in a break of body tissues (usually skin). A wound can also be acute or chronic – acute wounds heal quickly and uneventfully, while chronic wounds may heal slowly, with complications, or not heal at all. Most acute wounds are minor and can be easily treated at home. All wounds should be cleaned and disinfected to remove dirt and debris and prevent development of infection. If there is bleeding, apply direct pressure and elevate the affected area until it stops. If covering is needed, use sterile dressing or bandages. Wounds typically come with pain – take Tylenol to soothe the ache. If there is swelling or bruising, an ice pack can cool and ease inflammation.
Some wounds will require medical care. Go the Emergency Room (ER) or see your doctor right away if you were in a severe accident, are bleeding heavily, cannot stop bleeding with application of direct pressure, or continue bleeding for more than twenty minutes. In these cases, a wound may require more than a bandage; your doctor may need to repair the injury with sutures, stitches, or skin glue. For severe pain, your doctor will prescribe a painkiller until the wound heals. And in some cases with open wounds, your doctor will give you a tetanus shot to protect against infection.
Infection is the most common complication of wounds. See your doctor if a wound develops increased drainage, oozing pus, a foul odor, redness or warmth, increased pain, or if it does not appear to be healing at all. Other signs of infection may be a high fever, chills, or a tender lump in the groin or armpit. If left untreated, a wound infection can result in sepsis, cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, or lockjaw. In cases of wound infection, your doctor may need to debride or irrigate the area to remove dead skin cells, and he or she may prescribe an antibiotic until the infection heals.
The following is a list of common types of wounds:
- Lacerations: Lacerations are deep cuts that tear the skin. They are typically caused by accidents with sharp knives, tools, and machinery. Deep lacerations may bleed heavily and could require stitches or sutures to close.
- Punctures: Punctures are holes in the skin caused by sharp or pointed objects like nails, needles, knives, splinters, or bullets. Some puncture wounds may penetrate deeply enough to damage internal organs. If you have a puncture, see your doctor as soon as possible for a tetanus shot.
- Avulsions: Avulsions are a partial or complete tearing away of skin and underlying tissues. They look like a skin flap over the injured area. Avulsions typically result from violent accidents, such as explosions, shootings, or any body-crushing accidents. Theses injuries bleed heavily, and you should see a doctor right away if you are wounded in a serious accident.
- Abrasions: Abrasions are scrapes that tear away skin when it comes into contact with a rough surface. Road rash is a common type of abrasion. There is usually little bleeding with abrasions, but the skin needs to be cleaned thoroughly to remove dirt and debris.
- Skin tears: Skin tears affect the top two layers of skin – the dermis and the epidermis. A skin tears result when these two layers of skin are separated. While they can be caused by traumatic incidents, most skin tears occur due to dehydration, use of certain medications, aging, and fragile skin.
- Surgical wounds: Surgical wounds are precise incisions made by a scalpel during surgery. Following surgery, the skin is closed with sutures or stitches.
- Burns (chemical, electrical, thermal);
- Bug bites or stings – see your doctor if you develop an allergic reaction to a bite or sting;
- Blisters; and
Outside of acute events, wounds or ulcers may also appear due to skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis – click here to learn more about eczema. If you ever have any questions or concerns over the condition of a wound, Florida Dermatology and Skin Cancer Centers is here to listen and help. Our medical professionals specialize in treating all conditions of the skin, hair, and nails. We have numerous locations around Florida – call our office today at the location most convenient for you.