Scars are formed when injured tissue in the body begin to heal. Their function is to reconnect broken or damaged tissue. Scar tissue is made of collagen. Scars are also known as cicatrices. Scars are most commonly observed on the skin. The deeper the injury is on the skin, the deeper the scar is. The location of injury and genetics also determine the extent of scarring. Injuries are the most common cause of scarring on the skin. Other causes include burns, surgery, and even conditions such as chicken pox.
There are essentially four main types of scars:
* Keloid scars – Keloid scars form during the healing process after an injury, surgery, or body piercing. Pimples and insect bites can also cause these scars. Sometimes keloid scars form on their own, with apparent reason. Keloid scars are firm and raised from the skin; they usually extend beyond the site of injury. The scars may be pink, dark-brown or red in color. These scars are most commonly found on the chest, back, and ear lobes. The scars are generally harmless, they may itch from time to time but other than this they do not pose any problems. However; they can be a cosmetic issue if they are visible and make you feel self-conscious.
* Hypertrophic scars – Hypertrophic scars are usually red in color and raised above the wound. Unlike keloids, they do not extend beyond the injury site. Hypertrophic scars form when the healing process is overactive. These scars respond well to treatment; sometimes they can flatten out and disappear on their own.
* Contracture scars – Contracture scars are made of inelastic tissue. They cover large areas of skin. They are often formed after the skin gets burned. These scars contract the skin around the injury site. Depending on their location and severity, they can make movement difficult. Contracture scars can affect the muscle, tendons, and also the nerves beneath the skin. Exercise during treatment of the burned area is a good way to prevent or minimize the extent of contracture scars.
* Acne scars – Acne scarring happens when the body’s healing system responds to acne. The scars remain after the acne subsides. Sometimes the scars reduce in size or disappear completely. Acne scars can be 1) hypertrophic which results in an increase in tissue or 2) atrophic, which results in tissue loss.
Scar treatment is carried out by dermatologists and plastic surgeons. The type of scar and its location influence the type of treatment method. Scar treatment does not remove the scar as scars are permanent. Treatment will only reduce the size and extent of the scar and affect its color. It is advisable to start scar treatment when the wound is still healing. Various treatments can include:
* Surgery – There are several surgical scar treatment options available. Z-plasty is a technique used to surgically remove a scar. The skin around the scars is cut in triangular flaps and is placed again so that it appears more natural.
* Laser skin resurfacing can also be used to make scar size and scar color less conspicuous. Laser skin resurfacing takes less time and is less painful for the patient.
* Steroids – Steroids are injected directly into the scar to break down the tough collagen and soften the scar tissue. This is a mid- to long-term treatment repeated every four to six weeks. Steroid application is useful in controlling keloid and hypertrophic scars. There is no risk of side effects as very little of the steroid is absorbed into the blood stream.
* Skin grafts – Healthy skin is removed from one part of the body and grafted on to the scarred region. This technique helps in restoring function to a badly scarred area. However there is a chance that the texture and color of the grafted skin will not match that of the surrounding area.
* Dermabrasion – Dermabrasion is technique in which the top-most layer of skin on the scar is lifted. The scarred surface is smoothed or sanded with a rotating wire brush or a diamond tipped tool. The treatment is carried out under general or local anesthesia. It is useful for raised scars and acne scars.