Learn more about treatment options for scars
Scars can be emotionally devastating for many people, leading to mental and emotional complications. Scars can be disfiguring and aesthetically unpleasant. Side effects of scarring may include:
- Severe itching
- Sleep disturbances
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Disruption of daily activities
Scars also may result in development of post-traumatic stress reactions, loss of self-esteem and being stigmatized, leading to diminished quality of life. Physical deformity as a result of skin scar contractures also can be functionally disabling.
What you need to know about scars
Scarring is a natural part of the healing process after an injury. The scar’s appearance and its treatment depend on multiple factors, including the depth and size of the wound, its location, and the age, sex, ethnicity and genetics of the patient.
These are several different types of scars, including:
- Keloid scars: Resulting from an overly aggressive healing process, these scars extend beyond the site of the original injury. They may hamper movement. They are most common among people with dark skin.
- Contracture scars: These scars form on burned skin. As they tighten, they can impair movement. Scarring also goes deeper, affecting muscles and nerves.
- Hypertrophic scars: These are raised, red scars that are similar to keloids but do not go beyond the boundary of the injury.
- Acne scars: Scars can range from deep pits to those that are angular or wavelike in appearance.
Do's and don'ts
How you treat wounded skin can go a long way in preventing excessive scarring.
- Treat wounds promptly.
- Maintain constant pressure on wounds with special bandages or special silicone sheeting. This will help flatten any resultant scarring.
- Gently massage the scarred area once it is healed. Massaging helps break down the dense bands of collagen from forming in underlying tissue.
- Consider scar therapy for older scars, and for scarring that causes you physical or emotional pain.
- Ignore a scar that becomes raised, itchy or red, which could be a sign of infection.
- Swab wounds with hydrogen peroxide. It can damage nearby healthy skin.
- Cover a cut. Allow it to breathe and form a hard scab, which will speed healing in the wounded area.
- Treat a wound with vitamin E, which can impair healing.
Scar removal questions to ask a dermatologic surgeon
(Download a Scar Questionnaire to bring to your appointment)
- Which scar procedure is the correct one for me? (What are the options?)
- What is the estimated cost of the procedure?
- How long is one appointment?
- How often will I need to receive treatment to remove my scars?
- How far apart are the treatments?
- What are the common side effects or complications associated with the procedure?
- How can I prepare for the treatment/procedure?
- Does scar removal hurt?
- What are my pain management and anesthesia options?
- How long is the recovery time associated with my procedure?
- Do you have before-and-after patient images to help to prepare me for what to expect?
- Will someone walk me through the process before going in for treatment?
- What are the risks?
- What should I expect after the procedure is performed? (i.e., short-term and long-term effects; activity restrictions; expected recovery period)
General questions to ask before scar procedures
- Is a doctor on site?
- Is the doctor board-certified in dermatology or in another specialty with equivalent training and experience?
- Was my medical history taken?
- Was I given an initial evaluation to determine if the technique or procedure is appropriate for my skin type?
- Did the doctor show me before-and-after photos?