Scar Tissue

drawing by Jesse Mazer '99

Scar tissue is the fibrous connective tissue that’s usually formed after an injury such as a cut, incision, or burn has occurred.

It may also appear following skin conditions such as ulcers, acne, or psoriasis, or insect bites. Except for very mild lesions most wounds will scar to some extent. Scarring can occur on any tissue on the body, including skin and internal organs.

Scar tissue forms because the human body (unlike salamanders) isn’t able to regrow normal skin. It functions as a protective barrier and is made of the same protein (collagen) as the tissue it replaces but the fiber composition of the protein is different.

Scar Tissue Is Of Inferior Quality Compared To Normal Skin

These new, differently aligned, less functional fibers result in less strong tissue that is often thicker, paler, and denser than the surrounding tissue.

This makes scar tissue more rigid thus reducing its capacity to stretch. Blood supply is limited and sensation may be too as a result of damaged nerves. Another limitation is that scar tissue does not have sweat glands nor hair follicles. Also does it have a lower resistance against UV radiation.

Types of Scar Tissue

Mature scar tissue regularly is pale and flat. Some scars however, will become raised or thick as a result of an overproduction of fibrous tissue. These are called hypertrophic scars.

Hypertrophic scar tissue appears like a red (sometimes purple) lump. Keloids are a subset of hypertrophic scars that grow outside the boundaries of the original wound. This type of excessive scar tissue occurs more in young and dark skinned people. Click here to read more about treatment of hypertrophic scars.

Atrophic scars are depressed. They are often caused by acne or chickenpox but may also result from injury.

People Scar Differently

As we age, our skin loses its elasticity and becomes thinner and more prone to damage. This means that skin takes longer to heal and sometimes does not heal as well as younger skin. Race can also play a part in deciding what scars might look like. Black people are more likely to have their scar tissue form growths, such as hypertrophic or keloid scars at the site of an injury. Those with fair skin might think that their scars are more obvious than they would be with a darker complexion.

The size and depth of the injury or incision also plays a key factor when judging whether or not a scar will be problematic. Obviously, a larger cut is more likely to leave a scar than a small one and the larger the incision, the longer the healing process is more likely to take. This creates a greater opportunity for scarring.

You may be one of those who are blessed genetically with the gift of minimal scarring, or you may be diabetic and it might take substantially longer for your skin to heal. Both of these factors are important to consider when thinking about whether you are able to assist your body’s natural healing abilities.

Treatment Of Scars

Scar tissue is the result of the natural wound healing process. Generally scar tissue will fade in time. This typically takes 18-24 months.

Despite what many people think (or hope) scars cannot be removed completely. The healing process can be enhanced though. Certain types of therapy can improve problematic scars as well as prevent excessive scar tissue (hypertrophic) from being formed.

Click the link to learn more about treatment of scars after surgery. Visit this page to read more about optimal treatment of brown and dark scars and check this post for the best way to treat red and raised scars.

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