Not all wounds are created equal. They’re all painful, no doubt, but wounds are classified by how you got them. Different wounds may require different types of care, and all wounds heal differently.
Knowing what type of wound you have can help you care for it, because what works for some wounds should not be done for others. Here’s a look at the differences between two very common types of wounds, abrasion vs. laceration.
An abrasion occurs when the tissue gets torn, usually when your skin comes in contact with a rough surface. Think scraping your knee on pavement. Abrasions are usually painful and start bleeding right away. For minor abrasions, you can clean them gently with soap and water, and they’ll most likely heal in a short amount of time.
For deeper abrasions where the skin has been significantly rubbed away, you’ll want to see your healthcare provider. He or she can inspect your wound for dirt or other objects that may be in the wound and any deeper injuries below the skin’s surface such as fractures or damage to tendons or blood vessels.
A laceration cuts through the skin as the result of blunt trauma. Depending on how deep the cut is will determine whether you need medical treatment. For smaller cuts, you can treat it at home by cleaning the wound and covering it with a bandage.
Deep lacerations penetrate through the fat layer to the muscle layer and can potentially damage tendons and nerves. These types of injuries require medical care to help close the wound while it heals.
Treatment for Abrasion vs. Laceration
Abrasions are the milder form of injury between the two types, typically scraping away portions of the surface, but not often do they get very deep. Lacerations can puncture through several layers of fat and muscle.
In an abrasion, healing usually takes place over a few days. These wounds should be cleaned carefully but thoroughly, and in some cases antibiotics may be needed to stave off infection.
A laceration, however, will likely take longer to heal. Stitches or skin adhesive may be needed, and antibiotics may be required to stave off infection. Patients will have to refrain from strenuous activity while their wound heals, including exercise, sports or any other high-impact activity. You’ll want to avoid excessive moisture, so you’ll need to avoid swimming or immersing your wound in water for long periods of time, such as to do dishes or go swimming.
If you’re experiencing pain and swelling due to a laceration, try keeping the affected area elevated, and ice it to decrease symptoms. Use the ice for 20 minutes per day, up to four times per day. It’s important not to apply the ice directly to the wound, but instead apply it through a resealable bag or washcloth.
If your wound should not improve and show symptoms of worsening, such as:
- Redness or swelling
- Red streaks around the wound
- Wound smells or has drainage
- A fever higher than 100.4 degrees or chills
Seek medical attention right away to be treated by a healthcare provider. For more information on treating wounds, download our free guide, Seeking Wound Care Treatment.