Serious Injuries in Arizona: Understanding the Degrees of Burns

By on November 7, 2012

Skin serves an important protective role for the body, so when individuals suffer severe burn injuries, doctors take the injuries very seriously. Skin also helps the body regulate temperature and fluid levels; when enough skin sustains damage, these functions get interrupted.

If a burn is not treated and allowed to heal properly, the burn victim could experience scarring, infection, interference with the function of other organs or even death. Arizona burn injury attorneys aim to help burn victims receive the money they need to seek the medical treatment that will be most beneficial to recovery.

Causes and Classification of Burns

Burns are caused by a variety of sources. The most common are sunburns due to overexposure to ultraviolet rays, but other sources include steam, actual fire, electricity and radiation.

Burns are classified into degrees based on the severity of the burn itself. Severity is measured by the depth of the injury and how many of the skin's three layers the burn affects.

First Degree Burns

First degree burns are the mildest form of burns. First degree burns injure only the outer layer of skin and the injury does not completely penetrate that outer layer. First degree burns are red and often accompanied by swelling and pain and, in some cases, the skin may form thin blisters.

First degree burns are usually minor, such as sunburns, and will generally heal within three to seven days. Care for first degree burns includes keeping the area clean and dry and applying moisturizer as needed.

Second Degree Burns

Second degree burns are those in which the first and second layers of skin sustain injury. These types of burns tend to be the most painful; large blisters may form on the skin and will increase in size over time. The skin will often swelling and appear red or splotchy. The skin around the wound may also peel or feel moist.

Second degree burns generally take two to four weeks to heal. Depending on the size and severity of the burn, the patient may need a skin graft to attempt to reduce scarring and assist the body with the healing process. Burn victims with second degree burns are often advised to clean the area once or twice per day, remove dead skin from the wound, apply antibiotic ointment to the area and otherwise keep the wound covered in gauze.

Third Degree Burns

Third degree burns are the most serious of burns. But, according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the care and treatment of burns has improved dramatically of the last quarter of a century. People are able to survive even if up to 90 percent of the body has been burned; previously, those who experienced burns on more than 50 percent of the body did not survive.

A third degree burn damages all three layers of skin, including the fat and muscle in the third skin layer. Third degree burns may also affect bones, depending on the severity of the injury. Third degree burns tend to be less painful, however, as the burn destroys all of the nerve endings in the skin.

Third degree burns may appear white and dry or black and charred. The skin may have a leathery appearance, which medical professionals call eschar. Third degree burns will cause permanent tissue damage. Typically, a doctor will need to remove the eschar from the wound and replace it with grafted skin in order for proper healing to occur.

Third degree burns may be caused by a chemical spill, a motor vehicle crash resulting in a fire, water heater explosion, or other sudden, unexpected event. Third degree burns can be fatal, depending on the size of the area that was burned.

Burns can be serious injuries requiring a great deal of time and medical attention to heal properly. If you have been burned as a result of someone else's negligence, do not hesitate to contact an attorney who can advise you of your options.