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Burns Definition & Overview

Definition

A burn is damage to the skin and sometimes to the underlying tissues. Burns are categorized according to the depth and extent of the damage to the skin:

  • Superficial burn (also called first-degree burn)
    • Mildest type of burn
    • Often caused by ultraviolet light, or very short (“flash") flame exposure
    • Affects only the outer layer of the skin (epidermis)
    • Normally does not cause scarring
    • Takes about 3-6 days to heal
  • Superficial partial-thickness burn (also called second-degree burn)
    • Often caused by a scald (spill or splash) or short (“flash”) flame exposure
    • Affects the outer layer of the skin more deeply, usually causing blistering
    • May or may not cause scarring, but often does cause long-term skin color changes
    • Takes about 1-3 weeks to heal
  • Deep partial-thickness burn (also called second-degree burn)
    • Often caused by a scald (spill), may involve flame, oil, or grease
    • Affects the outer and underlying layer of skin (dermis), causing blistering
    • Usually causes scarring
    • Usually takes more than three weeks to heal
  • Full-thickness burn (also called third-degree burn)
    • Very serious
    • Often caused by scald (immersion), may involve flame, steam, oil, grease, chemicals, or high-voltage electricity
    • Damages all layers of the skin, and may involve the tissues underneath (muscle and bone)
    • Causes scarring
    • Will heal only at the wound edges by scarring, unless skin grafting is done

Classification of Skin Burns

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© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2019 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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