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Are All Scars Equal?

Moira Nadal's picture

Moira Nadal

Web Paper 2

Biology 103

Fall 2006

Are All Scars Equal?

We usually do not take the time to think about scars. We may admire a distinctive one from time-to-time or try to cover up ones on our faces. We see that they are different shapes and sizes but do not always give thought as to why that it so. I never paid much attention to scars until I recently acquired one, much darker and more pronounced than any others on my body. I then wondered, apart from being much older, why were the others lighter, and either long and thin or puckered. If they are all scars why do those look like that and this new one is dark, red, sensitive and protrudes? So what are scars and why are they all different?

Scars can be a reflection of the wound that created them. They will show the shape of the tear into the skin. Their shape can be determined by "...the size, depth, and location of the wound; the age of the person; heredity; and skin characteristics."[1] They form because the skin has to repair the damage caused. "The skin sent a bunch of collagen...- tough, white protein fibers that act like bridges - to reconnect the broken tissue."[2] Because the skin covers the area as quickly as possible, the new tissue looks different from the normal tissue that surrounds it. This noticeable disparity, is what we identify as a scar. "It can take up to 24 months for a scar to develop and mature to its stable form and appearance."[5]

After they have matured, some scars are pink, or just a little lighter or darker than one’s normal skin tone. Others are much more dark, even red due to "An increased number of blood vessels... that prompts the discoloration."[5]. Not only do scars some in different shapes and colors but also "...can take the form of a sunken recess in the skin, which has a pitted appearance. These are caused when underlying structures supporting the skin, such as fat or muscle, are lost."[4] Those that are not pitted can either lay flat or protrude as a result of too much tissue build-up.

One’s tendency to scar and even what kind of scar can depend on several factors. You racial background has an effect on the thickness of your skin. The location of the injury on your body. Also, the severity of the damage done will determine how your body will heal and scar. "... certain people tend to get scars more easily, and scars are more likely to form after wounds on certain parts of the body."[2] As you could probably guess by looking at people around you, the knees and elbows are the most likely to scar.

There are three basic kinds of scars: Atrophic, Hypertrophic, and Keloid. "Atrophic scars are depressed and cause a valley or hole in the skin."[5] These are often caused by diseases such as chicken pox or acne. "Hypertrophic scars are elevated and will subside with time."[5] These are very common and can result from basic injuries like cuts, scrapes, and minor surgeries. "Keloids are actually non-malignant tumors formed by scar tissue that exceeds the boundaries of an original incision or injury. Keloidal scars are elevated, expansive and continue to grow."[5] These need to be watched because sometimes they have negative side effects. Because even though they may normalize in a few years’ time, they could continue to grow and "...become binding, limiting mobility. They may cause cosmetic changes...."[3]

The new tissue formed when you body heals (the scar itself) is more susceptible to sun damage from ultraviolet rays. When one has a heart attack, the heart tissue scars. Since this is not as strong and healthy as the surrounding tissue, it can sometimes lead to heart failure. Since the over-growth of some scars becomes cancerous growth "any malignant growth or tumor caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division"[6] they may need to be removed. However, some keloid scars re-grow to where they were removed. Depending on where scars form, they can "...cause restricted movement of muscles, joints, and tendons." [1] Scars that form on the face or other very visible areas can become a source of embarrassment and lead to mental health issues. For those who have scars as a result of a very traumatic injury, illness or accident, have these as painful daily reminders.

Even though scars are not something that we would normally pay much attention to, they can tell a lot about a person, and their life. So take a look at the scars on your body, what kind are they? Do you know how you got them? What do they tell about you?