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What Is Skin Abrasion? - Definition & Treatment

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  • 0:00 Definition Of Skin Abrasions
  • 1:21 Complicated Abrasions
  • 2:20 Treatment For Skin Abrasions
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Smathers
This lesson will describe a skin abrasion. It will review complicated abrasions, treatment of abrasions and how the body works to heal itself. A short quiz will follow

Definition of Skin Abrasions

When you were younger did you ever run freely only to fall and scrape one or both of your knees? Or maybe you just did and wanted to read about the treatment of such scrapes. Sometimes scrapes are called strawberries or scratches, but all are medically defined as abrasions.

A skin abrasion is a superficial or shallow wound to the skin. In dermatological terms, it is further classified as being a wound in the epidermis or epidermal layer of the skin.

Layers of the skin
Skin Layer Image

In the image it is possible to see the layers of the skin and note that the epidermis is quite thin in comparison to the other skin layers. The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin and is on average .1 millimeters (mm) thick, though it ranges from about .05mm at the eyelids to 1.5mm at the palms and soles. Thus an abrasion is shallow by definition, since it is only in the epidermis.

Skin abrasions come in many forms. For example, an abrasion can come from a fall or scrape with a rough object. This type of abrasion is fairly common and treated by cleaning with soap and water and possibly placing an antibiotic ointment on the wound. It is not necessary to have antibiotic ointment since the body will use its own natural curative abilities to heal the wound, but the wound will heal more quickly if an antibiotic ointment is used.

Complicated Abrasions

There are abrasions that do not heal with minor treatment, such as antibiotic cream and cleaning, or through natural process; these may be due to dermatitis, or skin inflammation, that can stem from lack of natural body immunity, such as psoriasis, or could arise from plant contact, such as poison ivy. These result in itchy skin which when scratched, can create a wound on the skin's surface.

This type of abrasion needs a more focused medication and usually includes an anti-itch component. The more serious forms, like psoriasis, require medical intervention and interaction with a physician. Less serious forms, like a rash from poison ivy, can be resolved with over the counter ointments like 'poison ivy cream' that contain an anti-itch component and a drying agent to get rid of the poison ivy exposure.

As we age, the epidermis thins, leading to more frequent abrasions, which may result from bruises or contusions. Healing can be difficult, since our bodies have less ability to heal as we age.

Treatment For Skin Abrasions

When the body experiences an abrasion, the natural healing process begins. Healing is a complex process in which the body automatically rebuilds cells and destroys damaged cells on the surface of the skin, recreating its usually intact layer of epidermis.

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