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Healthy Habits for Bonsall & Fallbrook Folks: Scars – memory marks on the body

Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough

Special to the Village News

Marks left on people's bodies can tell a story of their life experiences; times when something happened that will remain on their skin and won't go away easily. Technically, a tattoo is a permanent scar on the body, but what about the types that are seen after a cut or injury? Why do people get scars? How can they make scars go away? In fact, there are several types of scars people can have.

Scars can have many shapes and sizes and often no two scars look the same. Scars vary due to cause, whether it was a burn, an injury, acne or a surgery. Where the scar is located on the body also comes into play in how it looks. The wound affects how it appears, depending on how deep or shallow it was. How the scar was treated is also to be considered.

A flat scar is called a cicatrix, and most scars fit this type. It flattens on the skin and changes color over time, until they almost look the same color as the rest of the skin.

A raised scar is called a hypertrophic scar, and it can be seen raised above the skin. Some can itch or be painful.

A depressed scar is called an atrophic scar. They sit below the surface of the skin and make the area look like a pit or that it's sunken in. They can become more noticeable with age. A lot of acne and chicken pox scars can be this type.

A keloid scar sits above the surface of the skin like a raised scar, but the keloid is larger than the injury or wound. It grows over time and can even restrict movement if it grows over a joint like the elbow or shoulder.

Stretch marks are scars as well. They are considered scars because they are breaks in the connective tissue. The skin stretches and shrinks quickly, which occurs after something like pregnancy or rapid growth. Stretch marks are often purple, red or dark brown at first, and over time they can lighten.

A contracture scar is an area of tight skin where the scar forms. They tend to be tighter and thicker than the surrounding skin. They are usually caused by burns.

Scarring is a normal part of the healing process. The body creates a barrier on the skin so that germs and bacteria can't get to the wound or injury. The body is creating new collagen to heal the damaged skin. The new tissue of the scar forms and protects that area.

Treatments are available for scars if desired. Dermabrasion can help remove the top layer of the skin. The sort of "sanding" manner can help improve the scar's appearance. Several types of laser treatments can make scars less noticeable. Pressure therapy can help reduce the size of the scar. There are creams and ointments. Injections can reduce keloid the size of keloid scars. Skin grafts may be also possible.

Scars are like memories left on the body. Some remind people of good things, while others might stir up what would rather be forgotten. Regardless, scars remain a part of their life's story.

Megan Johnson McCullough, Ed.D., recently earned her doctorate in physical education and health science, is a professional natural bodybuilder and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine master trainer.


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