Burns are extremely painful and take a very long time to heal. Most doctors consider severe burns to be the most painful category of injury. Victims with severe injuries from burns often require a series of surgeries and skin grafts to replace tissue damaged by burns. Skin grafts do not grow, so if a patient was young when they received their burns, they must typically undergo surgeries to replace skin grafts as they get older.
Different burns come from a variety of sources, and the level of damage by burns varies according to the severity of the injury. The two classifications of burns are the method and degree. The “method” of burns refers to the source, or cause, of the injury. Thermal, chemical, electrical, light, and radiation burns make up the different source classifications. The damage and seriousness of different burns is related to some extent to the source, for instance, minor radiation burns are considered more serious than thermal burns, and chemical burns can cause additional damage if the chemical is still in contact with the skin.
The various degrees of burns are divided according to the extent of the damage. First-degree burns involve only the outer layer of skin. They are the least painful and most common of all burns. Second-degree burns mean that the first layer of skin burns through and the second layer damaged, but burns do not extend beyond the second layer. Second-degree burns are considered minor if they cover less than 15% of the body. Third degree burns involve all layers of the skin and are sometimes called full thickness burns. Third degree burns are usually charred black with dry white areas; these types of burns can be very painful, but some patients feel little or no pain because of the damage from burns to the nerve endings. Third degree burns generally require skin grafts, and leave dense scars as they heal.
Burns can affect muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels. The respiratory system can be damaged by burns, causing possible airway obstruction and respiratory failure. The organ most commonly damaged by burns is the skin, impairing the body’s fluid/electrolyte balance, body temperature, joint function, and dexterity, as well as appearance. Burns leave thick physical scars, which can also cause emotional and psychological scarring. Especially for children, burns can create discomfort, fear, and anger resulting from the stares and questions of strangers.
Burns severely affect the victims’ quality of life, and can require long-term, costly medical care. Some burns will need dozens of surgeries to conduct skin grafts, prevent joint contractures, and treat infections. Burns affect millions of Americans every year, often due to occupational hazards, negligence, or product malfunctions. Burns originating in the fault or negligence of another may result in large settlements to offset treatment of burns, replace lost wages, and compensate for decline in quality of life and emotional/psychological damages.