by: Michael Kabel
Though most Western cultures see them as a blemish, scars are something that probably everyone on Earth has in common.
Scars form from most cuts and abrasions, and range from the tiniest marks barely visible to the naked eye to the most debilitating and disfiguring injuries. Fortunately, most common scars are a natural part of the body's recuperative process.
For children, scars can be a frightening and often embarrassing aftermath to a painful injury or accident. For parents wanting to minimize whatever scarring comes about, it's vitally important to know the latest research contradicts some long-held popular wisdom.
An initial warning, however: scar tissue growth can be restricted, removed with surgery, and managed during the healing process. But once a scar is formed it never completely goes away.
How scar tissue develops
A scar is the body's way of healing the skin. Serious, visibly noticeable scars happen when a wound or injury penetrates beneath the external epidermislayer of skin and reaches the dermal layer beneath. As a general rule of thumb, the deeper into the skin a wound reaches, the correspondingly worse the scar will become.
Scars are made from a special protein fiber known as collagen. In fact, over a quarter of the body's protein use involves making and using collagen to help the skin. The fibers stretch over the wound, sealing it and facilitating healing.
How scars are different
Because skin can never be completely duplicated, the fibrous collagen scar tissue that forms is often a different color and texture than the skin surrounding it. Scar tissue is often initially red, pink, or silvery in color.
Scar tissue is inferior to the original skin in that it does not possess sweat glands or hair follicles.
The many different types of scars
The most common type of scar is called a fortuna scar. These are the common scars most people have at least one of, the kind they live with without pain or discomfort. Some other types of scars are more serious, including:
- Hypertrophic scars are reddish and rise above the plain of skin surrounding them. They can sometimes be treated with laser surgery or prevented with medications.
- Keloid scars rise above the level of skin and continue developing as the body overproduces collagen, resulting in a benign growth dangling from the body. The growth can possibly affect mobility if left unchecked. They're often removed with cryotherapy (freezing the growth with liquid nitrogen) or treated with prescription silicone gel patches and presses.
- Acne scars appear as jagged or pocked pits in the skin, because the muscle or tissue beneath has been lost. They're easily treated with medication or routine surgery from a dermatologist. Acne scars are also sometimes caused by chickenpox.
In part two of this series, we'll look at ways to treat and prevent common fortuna scars with traditional non-prescription medicines, and examine what new therapies and procedures are available from the latest medical research.