Most people know the obvious effect of burns on the body – they hurt. However, they are painful because they produce serious injuries to the human body that can potentially be life threatening.
A burn harms human tissue. The extent of that harm and the tissues that are affected varies. Often, the factors that influence the severity of the burn include the source of the burn, the intensity of that source and where on the body the burn occurred.
Effect on Skin and Tissue
First degree burns usually only affect the outer layers of the skin tissue called the epidermis. Second degree burns affect the epidermis and the next layer of skin called the dermis. Third degree burns affect all layers of the skin and often the underlying tissue, tendons, joints and bones.
When skin is burned, the heat from the burn affects the skin’s blood vessels and causes them to dilate and the blood’s plasma to escape into the skin. This is what causes blisters on less severe burns. More severe burns do not blister but instead become very raw and ooze plasma. This leads to a critical loss of liquids that can cause burn victims to go into shock.
Burns can often result in significant scarring on the skin when it heals. Many burn victims will later seek scar reduction treatments in order to restore their complexion, especially if they are recovering from a facial burn.
One of the biggest concerns about burns is that the affected area is prone to infection. Of the patients who survive the initial burn, it is estimated that between one half and three quarters of subsequent fatalities occur from infection. This happens because the skin which usually protects the body from infection is destroyed and is unable to accomplish this important function. Further, bacteria can easily be inserted into the wound through the frequent monitoring that is often required of a burn. Also, the usual signs of an infection such as a red inflamed area that is warm are hard to detect in a burn victim since the skin already exhibits those signs due to the burn.
Other complications such as heart problems and pneumonia can also arise as the indirect result of a bad burn. These problems can be life threatening for the burn victim.
Burns are serious and sometimes traumatic events. They produce very significant changes to the body that can be life threatening. For these reasons it is important to prevent burns to the greatest extent possible and to promptly seek medical care when burns do occur.