What is an Abrasion Wound
An abrasion wound is a type of open wound that’s caused by the skin rubbing against a rough surface. It is also known as an excoriation or “brush burn”. It may be called a scrape or a graze. When an abrasion is caused by the skin sliding across hard ground, it may be called road rash.
It is a shallow wound, typically a wearing away of the top layer of skin (the epidermis) due to an applied friction force against the body. The scraped-off surface layer of skin from an abrasion can contain particles of dirt, which may lead to an infection or other complication if not cleaned and attended to. Most abrasions can be treated at home, and a trip to the emergency room is typically not necessary.
Abrasions are most likely to occur on the:
- Upper extremities
Abrasions can be painful, since they sometimes expose many of the skin’s nerve endings. However, they don’t typically cause much bleeding. Most abrasions can be treated at home.
Grades of Abrasions and their Symptoms
Abrasions can range from mild to severe. Most abrasions are mild and can easily be tended to at home. Some abrasions, however, may require medical treatment.
- First-degree abrasion
A first-degree abrasion involves superficial damage to the epidermis. The epidermis is the first, or most superficial, layer of skin. A first-degree abrasion is considered mild. It won’t bleed.
First-degree abrasions are sometimes called scrapes or grazes.
- Second-degree abrasion
A second-degree abrasion results in damage to the epidermis as well as the dermis. The dermis is the second layer of skin, just below the epidermis. A second-degree abrasion may bleed mildly.
- Third-degree abrasion
A third-degree abrasion is a severe abrasion. It’s also known as an avulsion wound. It involves friction and tearing of the skin to the layer of tissue deeper than the dermis. An avulsion may bleed heavily and require more intense medical care.
Treating an Abrasion at Home
A first- or second-degree abrasion can usually be treated at home. To care for an abrasion:
- Begin with washed hands.
- Gently clean the area with cool to lukewarm water and mild soap. Remove dirt or other particles from the wound using sterilized tweezers.
- For a mild scrape that’s not bleeding, leave the wound uncovered.
- If the wound is bleeding, use a clean cloth or bandage, and apply gentle pressure to the area to stop any bleeding. Elevating the area can also help stop bleeding.
- Cover a wound that bled with a thin layer of topical antibiotic ointment, like Bacitracin, or a sterile moisture barrier ointment, like Aquaphor. Cover it with a clean bandage or gauze. Gently clean the wound and change the ointment and bandage once per day.
- Watch the area for signs of infection, like pain or redness and swelling. See your doctor if you suspect infection.
Complications associated with Abrasion Wound
Most mild abrasions will heal quickly, but some deeper abrasions may lead to infection or scarring.
It is important to treat the wound right away to reduce your risk for scarring. Make sure to keep the wound clean. Avoid picking at the affected area as it heals.
One of the most serious side effects of any open wound is infection. See your doctor if you suspect an infection. Signs of infection include:
- A wound that won’t heal
- Painful, irritated skin
- Foul-smelling discharge from the wound
- Green, yellow, or brown pus
- A fever that lasts longer than four hours
- A hard, painful lump in your armpit or groin area
Difference between Abrasions and Lacerations
Abrasions and Lacerations, also relatively minor in most instances, often result from auto accidents. Abrasions, a milder form of injury compared to lacerations, involve the scraping away of a layer of the skin, usually caused by friction with a rough surface. Lacerations (wounds) are more severe, and deeper tears of the skin. However, both can be equally severe in auto accidents, especially if left untreated or improperly treated.
The most common complication resulting from abrasions and lacerations is an infection. Numbness, tingling, pain, and excessive bleeding are common signs that the wound may be infected, or becoming infected. Other common signs of infection include:
- Pus draining from the wound
- Swelling of the wound
- Severe/Excessive pain
Though infection is the most common abrasion/laceration complication, other problems include:
- Nerve damage
- Tendon damage
- Penetration of veins and/or arteries
- Long-term pain
All of these complications may result in very costly medical expenses. If you suffered any of these injuries as the result of an auto accident, you may be entitled to compensation from any at-fault parties.
Read Also: Puncture Wound: First Aid & Home Remedies
First aid for Abrasion Wound
An abrasion means that the surface layers of the skin (epidermis) has been broken. Thin-skinned bony areas (like knees, ankles and elbows) are more prone to abrasions than thicker, more padded areas. The scraped skin of an abrasion can contain particles of dirt.
First aid treatment includes:
- Clean the wound with a non-fibre shedding material or sterile gauze, and use an antiseptic such as Betadine. If there is embedded dirt, Savlon may be used as it contains an antiseptic and a surfactant to help remove debris. Rinse the wound after five minutes with sterile saline or flowing tap water.
- Don’t scrub at embedded dirt, as this can traumatise the site even more.
- Cover the cleaned wound with an appropriate non-stick sterile dressing.
- Change the dressing according to the manufacturer’s instructions (some may be left in place for several days to a week). If you reapply antiseptic, wash it off after five minutes and then redress the wound.
Preventing Abrasion Wound
It is difficult to fully prevent an abrasion, as they are often accidental and due to the exposures of everyday life. Awareness of your surroundings and paying close attention to what you are doing can help reduce the likelihood of an accidental scrape, fall, or injury. Other precautionary steps include:
- Wearing gloves, long sleeves, pants, or other layers of clothing as additional layers of protection for the skin
- Wearing safety gear such as safety goggles, closed-toe shoes, and glasses
- Wearing helmets and protective pads for knees, wrists, elbows, and hands during sports or other physical activities
- Knowing how to properly use tools, sharp objects, and kitchen supplies
- Ensuring you are in a well-lit area
- Assessing your home or work place for possible risks and hazards, and removing such hazards
- Educating children on the importance of safety
- Ensuring your tetanus shot or booster is up to date
Treatment for abrasion wound
- Keep the site dry and clean. It may be covered with an occlusive thin film dressing, which is waterproof and protective.
- Only apply lotions or ointments to the wound if instructed to do so by medical staff.
- Try not to exert yourself, as physical activity may cause the site to bleed.
- Seek medical advice immediately if the site starts to produce pus, swell or exude a disagreeable odour.