Scars -- Overview

A scar is skin that forms over a wound as the skin heals. There are five main types of abnormal scars:

  • Causes

    A scar is part of the normal healing process. The scar is made of the same material as the surrounding skin but it is made a little differently. As a result, the scar tissue appears different than the surrounding skin.

  • Definition

    A scar is skin that forms over a wound as the skin heals. There are five main types of abnormal scars:

    • Keloid
      —thick scars that grow out from the skin. They spread beyond the site of the wound.
    • Contracture—often the result of a burn injury. The scar appears as a tightening of the skin. This type may also affect muscles and nerves below the skin.
    • Hypertrophic—thick, raised scars. They look like keloid scars but do not spread beyond the site of the wound.
    • Atrophic—thinned out, cigarette paper-like scars
    • Acne
      —may look like deep pits or be angular and wavelike.

  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a skin specialist.

  • Prevention

    If you have a wound, follow your doctor’s wound care instructions. Proper care may reduce the appearance of a scar.

    To minimize scarring from acne:

    • Work with your doctor to create a plan to properly treat and care for your skin.
    • Avoid the temptation to pick or pop an acne pimple, since this can cause scarring and infection.
    • Protect your skin from the sun

    To minimize contracture scarring (after injuries like burns):

    • Wear pressure garments. Pressure garments are tight-fitting clothes that are worn over a burn. These garments can reduce scarring.
    • Wear a splint to keep a joint straight.
    • Practice range of motion exercises to keep muscles and joints flexible.
    • Keep active. This will keep the scar stretched and prevent it from tightening.

    If you are prone to keloid scars, pressure treatment and silicone gel sheeting may help prevent them.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of having a scar include:

    • Injury or type of injury to the skin, such as a cut, scrape, puncture, or
    • How your skin scars—some people scar more easily than others
    • Where the injury occurred
    • How long it took for your skin to heal
    • Age, heredity, gender, and ethnicity
    • Infections
    • Acne
    • Surgery
    Normal Surgical Scar
    Post-operative scar
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  • Signs and Symptoms

    A scar may first look red and thick. It may may feel numb, itchy, painful, or sensitive. Some scars may also cause physical difficulties. For example a scar on the face may affect movement of the eyelids, or restrict motion, especially at a joint.

    Over time, the scar will change. It may become raised/thick, flat, depressed, dark, or light in color. The type of the wound will affect how noticeable the scar is.

  • Treatment

    Most scars will fade over time, although they rarely go away completely. Some types of scars do not fade at all. Some people may feel self-conscious about their scars. This can affect their quality-of-life.

    There are many treatments that can improve the appearance of a scar. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you: