Effects of Burn Injury on Body

Published: 13th March 2012
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Burn effects are measured by exposure to heat based on temperature and duration. Additionally, location of the burn is also taken into account to determine the effects of burns because skin varies in thickness, water and oil content, fat, and blood vessels.

The severity of burns depends on how deep the injury is and how much of the body has been burned. It is common for a person with a large burn injury to have burns of different depths. The deepest injury is usually at the center of a burned area. The deeper the burn injury is, the greater the number of layers that are damaged. Sweat glands and the roots of hair follicles are in the deeper layers and will be destroyed with a deep burn. Deep injuries heal more slowly, are more difficult to treat, and are more likely to have complications than superficial injuries.

Burn injuries include some of the most traumatic personal injuries a person can endure. The financial, mental and physical costs of recovering from a burn injury are limitless. Medical costs for serious burns are upwards of $200,000 and often require long-term hospitalization, doctors' visits, physical therapy and counseling. Pain management is a critical aspect of healing from burn injuries and often requires a combination of medications and treatment best handled by a team of medical specialists.
Scars from Burns:

A keloid scar refers to a thick, itchy cluster of scar tissue that will grow beyond the edges of an initial burn wound. After the wound has healed, Keloid scars develop as a result of the bodyís production of collagen, a tough fibrous protein. Keloid scars are often darker than the surrounding skin and can often become binding by limiting mobility. People with dark skin are more likely to develop Keloids than those with fair skin.

Hypertrophic scars are thick, raised, often described as leather or ropelike, and, just like Keloids, are darker than the surrounding skin. They differ from Keloid scars because they are usually confined to the original area of the burn injury and do not extend past the edges of the initial burn site. In contrast to Keloid scars, Hypertrophic scars are more common in people with fair complexions. Pressure therapy is frequently used in the treatment of hypertrophic scars.

A contracture scar is a permanent tightening of skin that may affect the underlying muscles and tendons which may limit the patientís mobility and possibly damage the underlying nerves. Contractures develop when normal elastic connective tissues are replaced with inelastic fibrous tissue. This makes the tissues resistant to stretching and prevents normal movement of the affected area. Doctors recommend physical therapy, pressure garments and exercise to assist in controlling contracture burn scars. If these treatments do not control the effects of contracture scars, surgery may be required.

The leading cause of death among smoke inhalation injuries is carbon monoxide. The signs and symptoms of smoke inhalation include cough, shortness of breath, hoarseness, headache, and acute mental status changes. The most common side effect of carbon monoxide poisoning is headache. More intense exposure causes shortness of breath and altered mental function. Treatment for mild carbon monoxide poisoning is simply exposure to fresh air. Firefighters often treat more serious inhalation injuries on-site with oxygen treatments.

Carbon monoxide is emitted by carbon-containing fuels such as gas, oil, and coal. Inhalation injuries may go unnoticed as carbon monoxide is colorless, tasteless and has no smell. In order to detect carbon monoxide leaks, gas companies add a smell to the fuel so that people can recognize leaks from a home heating system or other appliance.

Inhalation injuries are divided into three main categories. The first type of inhalation injuries are caused by inert gases, such as carbon dioxide and fuel gases (methane, ethane, propane, acetylene) which displace air and oxygen, producing asphyxia. Treatment consists of removing the victim from the gas and allowing him to breathe air or oxygen, and attending to any damage caused by the period of hypoxia (myocardial infarction, cerebral injury).

The second type of inhalation injury is caused by irritant gases: ammonia (NH3), formaldehyde(HCHO), chloramines (NH2Cl), chlorine (Cl2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and phosgene (COCl2). These gases produce a chemical burn and an inflammatory response. These gases tend to produce more upper airway burns, irritating eyes, nose, and mouth, while other irritant gases may produce more pulmonary injury and respiratory distress. The third type of inhalation injury is caused by gases which are systemic toxins, such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen cyanide (HCN), and hydrogen sulfide (H2S), all of which interfere with the delivery of oxygen for cellular energy production, and aromatic and halogenated hydrocarbons, which can produce later liver, kidney, brain lung, and other organ damage. A final category of inhalation injury is allergic, in which inhaled gases, particles or aerosols produce bronchospasm and edema much like asthma or spasmodic croup.



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