Scars are the body's natural way of healing and replacing lost or damaged skin. They are usually composed of fibrous tissue and form for a variety of reasons including as a result of infections, surgery, injuries or inflammation of tissue. Scars may appear anywhere on the body, and the composition of a scar may vary--appearing flat, lumpy, sunken or colored. Depending on their formation and composition, scars may also be tender or occasionally (or frequently) itchy.
The final look of a scar depends of many factors, including the skin type and location on the body, the direction of the wound, the type of injury, age of the person with the scar and his/her nutritional status. There are many different types of scars including:
Keloid scars - Thick, rounded, irregular clusters of scar tissue that grow at the site of a wound on the skin, but beyond the edges of the borders of the wound. They often appear red or darker in color, as compared to the surrounding normal skin. Keloids are formed from collagen that the body produces after a wound has healed. These scars may appear anywhere on the body and can appear up to a year after the original trauma. Keloid scars tend to appear more often in dark-skinned people.
Hypertrophic scars - Similar to keloid scars. However, their growth is confined within the boundaries of the original skin defect. These scars may also appear red and are usually thick and elevated. Hypertrophic scars usually start to develop within two to three weeks of the injury to the skin. It's not uncommon for hypertrophic scars to improve naturally, although this process may take up to a year or longer.
In treating hypertrophic scars, steroids may be the first line of therapy, although there is not one simple cure. Steroids may be given as an injection or by direct application. These scars may also be removed surgically. Often, steroid injections are used along with the surgery and may continue up to two years after the surgery to help maximize healing and decrease the chance returning scars.
Contractures - An abnormal occurrence that happens when a large area of skin is damaged and lost, resulting in a scar. The scar formation pulls the edges of the skin together, causing a tight area of skin. The decrease in the size of the skin can then affect the muscles, joints, and tendons, causing a decrease in movement.
Adhesions - Form between unconnected internal organs. Adhesions may cause complications during certain surgeries.