What Is An Abrasion?

  • Anila vijayan Bachelor of Homoeopathic Medicine & Surgery, India
  • Anusha SureshBClinPharm, PGDipClinPharm, PGDipBusinessManagement, University of Auckland

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Overview

The skin,  the largest organ in the body, can experience abrasions, which are scrapes on the skin. Comprising two layers, the epidermis and dermis, the skin houses sebaceous glands, hair follicles, nerves, and blood vessels.  

An abrasion is a superficial injury occurring  when the  skin rubs or is forced against a solid surface, resulting in minor injuries causing pain, skin discoloration, and slight bleeding. Often, these injuries can be treated at home by cleaning and covering the wound based on the affected area. 

Abrasions are typically accidental injuries affecting the outermost layer (epidermis) of the skin. While mostly minor, abrasions can lead to infections, representing a more serious stage of a wound.1 

Types of Abrasions

An abrasion is an injury to the visceral lining of the body, causing a  break in  tissue continuity. The types of abrasions include:

  1. Linear or scratch abrasion

It is an abrasion occurring like a line pattern on the skin which is due to the sharp pointed objects, such as thorns, nails etc. It is the simplest type of abrasion. It only takes a week to heal without any dressing. If the linear or scratched abrasion occurs in the neck they are noticed as a sign of throttling and abrasion present in the female genitalia or in areas of inner thighs are an indicator of sexual assault.2

  1. Grazed or brush abrasions

Grazed abrasion occurs usually as a result of the skin friction against a broad rough surface. This can occur in a large area of the skin. The depth of this injury depends upon the irregularity of the surface and the intensity or speed of the fall. These types of abrasions are commonly seen from road accidents, injuries from playground and when the body is being dragged over a rough surface.

  1. Patterned abrasion

A patterned abrasion occurs when the object makes direct contact with the skin and the wound matches the size and shape of the object. Patterned abrasion is classified into : 

Pressure abrasion

Pressure abrasion occurs when the skin is compressed for a long time. It causes minimum injury. For example Teeth bite marks and hanging marks

Impact abrasion

Impact abrasion occurs where a considerable force of swift blow acts against the skin.There may occur bulging of the skin and damage of the skin.

  1. Corneal abrasion

Corneal abrasion is an injury or scratch affecting the surface of the cornea in the eye. Although it is not meant to be a serious injury it is advised to consult the healthcare professional because if it turns into an infection it can cause more damage.4

  1. Dental abrasion

Dental abrasion occurs when there is repetitive grinding or excessive brushing, usage of hard bristles in the toothbrush, using a hard or sharp toothpick to clean in between the teeth. Making teeth in contact with a hard surface can lead to removal of enamel (outer layer of the teeth), exposing the root and dentin below. This can lead to discoloration, discomfort, decay, sensitivity and infection.3

Causes of Abrasions

Abrasions occur  when the skin rubs  against hard, rough, or uneven surfaces. Causes include: 

  • Falling onto a rocky gravel surface.
  • Falling from a bicycle, scooter, motorcycle onto  pavement.
  • Rubbing the skin against rough rug or uneven walls.
  • Scratching with nails during insect bites.
  • Corneal abrasion caused by dust, dirt, small plant  or wood pieces.
  • Dental abrasions from grinding, excessive brushing, or using hard tools.

Symptoms of Abrasions

  • Skin Abrasions
    • Skin discoloration (pink or red) 
    • Slight bleeding.
    • Mild pain.
    • Oozing fluid from the wound. .
    • Dark borders around the abrasion during healing. 
  • Dental abrasion
    • Enamel erosion leading  to discolouration.
    • Loss of tooth structure.
    • Sensitivity to  cold or hot drinks.
    • Pain while chewing.
    • Foul smell, decay, and infection symptoms.6

Diagnosis 

Physical examination

Most commonly abrasions are minor injuries which can be managed and treated at home. In situations where the abrasions are affecting more surface area it is recommended to consult the doctor and advised to take proper treatment. Healthcare professionals examine the affected area and the treatment is given according to the : 

  • Type of abrasion
  • Area of affected
  • Size and depth of the wound.
  • Examine for any debris or foreign material present on the wound.

Management and Treatment

Medical Examination

Treatment for abrasion is done like a normal wound care method, this can be done at home itself. In case of abrasion affecting a large area it is advised to consult healthcare professionals. Basic treatment method is : 

Treatment for skin abrasion : 

  • Wash the wound and surrounding area gently with warm water and soap. 
  • Use normal water for cleaning superficial wounds to avoid damage to healthy tissues. 
  • Use tweezers to remove visible debris. 
  • Dry the wound and surrounding area with a clean cloth. 
  • Apply antibiotic  ointment to prevent infection.
  • Cover the wound with bandage or dressing, changing it daily until healing.  
  • Cleaning and covering of the wound should be done daily until it heals.
  • Antibiotics or tetanus shots will be advised by the doctor if the abrasions are caused by animals or there is any sign of infection.

Treatment for Corneal Abrasions:

  • Corneal abrasion is the wound affecting the eye, the initial care that should be given is flushing out the eye with clean water.
  • Should avoid rubbing the eyes.
  • If any particles are present in the eyes it is advised to consult the doctor and in the healthcare facility they would use a topical anaesthesia for numbing and would use a swab or any instrument to remove the particle from the eyes.
  • Antibiotic eye drops or ointment will be prescribed to avoid infection.
  • If the patient is having pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed by the ophthalmologist(specialist doctor for eyes).5

Treatment for dental abrasion:

According to the damage it has occurred to the teeth the treatment is done and is tried to  save the teeth. But in the worst case the tooth is extracted by the dentist.

Complications and Risks

  • Infection

Most common complication of abrasion is infection, it may be due to any debris present or the intensity of the wound.

  • Pain

Mostly the skin abrasions are minor injuries but in larger areas affected and in case of corneal abrasion there may be pain.

  • Swelling and pus formation due to infection.
  • Fever is accompanied with infection.
  • Keratitis

It is the corneal inflammation due to infection or due to any foreign particles present. It is advised to consult healthcare professionals.

  • Vision Impairment
  • Corneal ulcer

Infection is causing this condition and can lead to redness, watery eyes, pain and can lead to vision loss.

FAQs

When should i consult a doctor in case of abrasion?

Abrasion is commonly a minor injury but any sign of infection like pain, pus and swelling, it is recommended to consult a doctor. Also in conditions like : 

  • In case of abrasion caused  by animals.
  • Having dirt or any foreign particles in the wound.
  • When the abrasion is affected in a large area.
  • When the abrasion is not healing in a week.

What does a skin abrasion looks like?

Abrasion occurs when the skin rubs off against an hard uneven surface. The affected area looks like red or pink discoloration. Borders are dark in colour and often a slight blood appears in the  area affected.

How to prevent an abrasion?

Abrasions occur accidentally. Can prevent abrasion by : 

  • Being aware of the surroundings when there are animals, sharp objects.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear while playing sports or riding a bicycle.
  • Being cautious while walking in a sloop or slippery area.

How to treat an abrasion at home?

Abrasions are mostly minor injuries which can be treated at home. At first;

  • The person cleaning the wound should clean their hand with water and soap.
  • The affected area should be cleaned with water and soap.
  • Should remove any debris or small foreign particles present.
  • The cleaned area should be dried.
  • According to the affected area the wound can be dressed with bandage or gauze.
  • The dressing and the area affected should be cleaned and changed daily.

How long it takes to heal skin abrasion?

Abrasions are minor injuries which take a week to heal. Depending upon the area affected and the severity the healing takes more time.

Summary

An abrasion is a superficial injury occurring when the skin rubs against a solid surface, resulting in minor injuries. While most abrasions can be treated at home, larger or more severe cases may require medical attention. Corneal and dental abrasions have specific care requirements. Risks include infection, pain, swelling, and potential complications like keratitis or vision impairment. Awareness of surroundings and protective measures can help prevent accidental abrasions.

References

  1. Moon P. Complex Hemifacial Degloving Injury to Face: A Rare Case Report. World J Plast Surg. 2021; 10(2):124–8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8290443/ 
  2. McCormack D, Subburamu S, Guzman G, Calderon C, Darapaneni R, Lis R, et al. Traumatic Injuries in Sexual Assault Patients in the Emergency Department. WestJEM [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Dec 7]; 23(5):672–7. Available from: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/0qd57532
  3. Abdul Salam TA, Varghese S, Shenoy RP. Prevalence and clinical parameters of cervical abrasion as a function of population, age, gender, and toothbrushing habits: A systematic review. World. 2019 Nov;10(6):471. Available from: https://wjoud.com/doi/WJOUD/pdf/10.5005/jp-journals-10015-1685
  4. Shoaib M, Chomayil Y, Zafar M. Corneal abrasion due to face mask in children: A novel and potential mechanism of injury related to COVID 19 pandemic. Vis J Emerg Med. 2022; 27:101290. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8920910/ 
  5. Ergün SS, Zengin SÜ, Ünal M, Yildiz P. Traumatic Avulsion of Upper Eyelid Skin Following Surgery in a Patient With Multiple Myeloma and Amyloid Light-chain Amyloidosis. Wound Manag Prev. 2020; 66(9):16–9. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32903200/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Anila Viijayan

Bachelor of Homoeopathic Medicine & Surgery, India

A homoeopathic physician with a wealth of knowledge accumulated through rigorous education and extensive clinical experience. Beyond confines of clinic, have expertise in conducting seminars, writing insightful articles, and actively participating in medical communities. Additionally, possesses a comprehensive understanding of medical insurance processes and managing health clinic solely.

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