Skin Tears: Prevention & Treatment

Skin Tears: Prevention & TreatmentPin
Skin Tears: Prevention & Treatment

Skin tears happen when thin, fragile skin rips away from the underlying tissue whenever the person bumps into something hard or when the skin gets pulled sideways. The skin looks like it’s been peeled up off of the underlying tissue. It bleeds profusely, and needs special care to promote healing.

Here’s a simple image of the layers of your skin to help you visualize what’s happening.

Causes Of Skin Tears

First of all what makes one prone to skin tears?

Age– “The most frequent cause of thin, fragile skin is aging. With each passing year, the surface layer of your skin thins and loses some of its elasticity.”

Sun–  “Ultraviolet light tends to deteriorate the collagen and elastin making up the dermal layer of the skin. As collagen and elastin levels diminish, the skin thins, making it much more fragile.”

Corticosteroid Medications– Long-term usage of steroids by mouth or on the skin can cause the skin to get thinner and more fragile leading to easy bruising, and skin tears.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome– “a grouping of disorders that affects the production of collagen within the body.”

Amyloidosis– “another grouping of disorders that leads to thin, fragile skin.”

Genetics– the tendency to thin, fragile skin can also be passed from parent to child.

All of the above came from the article What Are The Causes Of Thin, Fragile Skin?

How To Treat A Skin Tear Depends On How Bad It Is

In Category 1 skin tears, the skin flap is intact and can cover over the open area. If the skin flap is pink-looking the wound should heal nicely when the flap is put back where it belongs and the wound is dressed. If the skin flap is pale, blue or purple see a healthcare professional.

With Category 2 skin tears, the skin flap won’t cover the open wound completely. See your doctor for help with treating this kind of skin tear.

In Category 3 skin tears, the skin flap is missing. This type will take the longest to heal. As with Category 2 skin tears, see your doctor for help.

If the skin tear won’t stop bleeding or is large, or has removed both the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin see a doctor for help. Also, see your doctor for skin tears on hard to dress places, like the head or body.

Treating Category 1 Skin Tears At Home

First, be super gentle!! Wash your hands with soap and water before touching the wound if possible. Gently rinse the wound with water or saline solution. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or other strong wound cleaners. Then slowly slide the skin flap back where it belongs with a fingertip or q-tip to cover the wound. Don’t tug or pull on it. Next cover it with a dressing made for skin tears. Apply gentle pressure if the wound is still bleeding.

Film dressings such as Tegaderm and petroleum jelly gauze dressings work best for skin tears. If you don’t have any of these available you can use a non-stick gauze pad (Telfa Pad) or a regular gauze pad with some petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on it so it won’t stick to the wound. I’ve used A&D Ointment in place of petroleum jelly when I couldn’t find any at the store. Cover the gauze pad with self-sticking wound wrap or gauze with tape. Do not place tape directly on your skin.

When removing the dressing pull it off in the opposite direction of the skin tear to keep the skin flap from being pulled up again. Check for any signs of infection: redness, increased pain, pus, swelling or fever daily and see your doctor if these signs occur. Note: the skin will be red around the wound at first. It should return to it’s normal color with each passing day. If the area of redness increases with the above symptoms of swelling, and increased pain it has become infected. Untreated infected skin wounds can turn into deeper infections like cellulitis, or sepsis. These infections require intravenous antibiotics and a hospital stay, so it’s best to prevent infection.

If you want to use over-the-counter antibiotic cream, follow the directions on the package. Don’t let the area get wet until it’s healed.

Preventing A Skin Tear Is Better Than Getting One

Next, if you find yourself with a skin tear, you are at increased risk of getting another one. So how do you prevent future skin tears?

  1. Stay hydrated. Skin needs water to stay plump. If you are dehydrated your chance of a skin tear increases.
  2. Check your diet. Are you eating fruits and vegetables every day? Do you need a multi-vitamin? Extra Vitamin C?
  3. Pad furniture or cupboards that you’re likely to bump into, especially if they cannot be moved. This helps prevent bruises too.
  4. Protect your forearms and or shins with clothing or long socks. Dollar store fluffy socks can be used as forearm protectors by cutting off the toe of the sock. Slide your arm in and position the heel at your elbow.
  5. If the back of your hands are prone to skin tears, you can also use a sock to cover them, by cutting out a thumb hole and removing the toe.
  6. Use a good lotion on your skin daily especially on your arms, hands, and shins.
  7. Remove any tripping hazards
  8. Use good lighting when walking about at night so you don’t run into anything.

Wrap-Up Of Skin Tears

For more detailed information on treating and preventing skin tears you can click here.

I use bubble wrap to pad furniture and cupboards where I keep hitting my arms and legs. I usually save the bubble wrap from packaging. For, example I kept hitting my forearm on the upper part of my sink cabinet every time I threw out garbage. So I taped bubble wrap over this edge and now I don’t get bruises and skin tears from it anymore.

If you have an OSKA Pulse device sitting it near your skin tear will help with healing. My last skin tear was pretty deep and was completely healed in two weeks using my OSKA. Normally, it would take 3-4 weeks for my skin tears to heal.

I hope you don’t get skin tears, but if you do I hope this information helps. Share this post, please. Till next time, Kathy

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By Kathryn

I'm a writer, disabled registered nurse, and former home school parent of 6 children ages 19 to 32. I'm also a domestic abuse survivor.

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