Eschar: Definition, Formation & Treatment

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  • 0:00 What Is an Eschar?
  • 0:59 How Does an Eschar Form?
  • 1:46 Preventing and…
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Eschars are crusty or leathery dead patches of tissue found on wounds. Read this lesson to learn what causes them, how they form, and how they are treated. Warning: this lesson isn't for the faint of heart -- or stomach!

What Is an Eschar?

Getting hurt is a part of life. Unless you've been extremely coordinated since birth, you've probably racked up a few accidental injuries over the years, maybe from falling off a bike or burning your hand while cooking. If you've ever gotten hurt in an incident like this, then you know what happens next. Your body tries to heal itself, and in doing so forms a scab over the injury. In some instances, an eschar forms as well.

An eschar is a piece of dead tissue that falls off the body, away from healthy skin. They are part of the body's healing process if the body is wounded. Eschars may be crusty or leathery in appearance and are usually tan, brown, or black in color. Typically, eschars form at the top or bottom of a wound and may be surrounded by swollen, tender, or reddened tissue. They are similar to a scab except that they can hinder the underlying wound from healing properly by blocking treatment.

How Does an Eschar Form?

So how does the eschar form? Well, eschars form when skin cells die and bunch or stick together. The two most common causes of eschars are burns and pressure wounds. Burning the skin may be a deliberate medical procedure used to purposefully kill tissue, stop bleeding, or prevent or stop an infection from spreading. Pressure wounds, like bedsores, develop when someone has limited mobility and stays in one position for an extended period of time, causing irregularities in blood circulation that can eventually lead to the death of tissues or the formation of sores. Pressure sores are especially common in older people who smoke, are in poor health, and have either very dry or very moist skin. Other causes of eschar are gangrene infections and diabetic ulcers.

Preventing and Treating Eschars

Eschars aren't always a bad thing, but they can be. Luckily, they can usually be prevented. People with limited mobility should be assisted so they don't stay in the same position for too long, especially people who are confined to a bed. Skin should be kept clean and dry, and the person should stay hydrated. A well-balanced diet can help, and protein, zinc, and vitamin C are especially critical nutrients to include. Finally, a person should avoid smoking and stay as active as possible to prevent eschars from developing.

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