Types of Burns Injuries:
Burn injuries are classified based upon the depth of the burn as either first, second, third or fourth degree burns. Although there is such a thing as a fifth or sixth degree burn, those are typically only diagnosed through an autopsy. A first degree burn is superficial to the outermost layer of skin causing red skin. Second degree burns go beyond the outer skin layers and damage the never endings, sweat glands, hair follicles and blood capillaries. The skin often turns red with blisters. Second-degree burns are extremely painful. Third degree burn injuries are called full-thickness burns. They completely destroy the nerve endings in the skin. As a result, although the nerves are damaged, third degree are most commonly surrounded by second degree so it is rare that they are not accompanied by extreme pain. The skin becomes dry, leathery and most often requires extremely painful skin grafts and debridement. Fourth degree burns go beyond the skin and destroy the underlying muscle and tendons. Very few burn victims are able to survive these injuries and when they do amputation or surgical removal is most often required. Fifth and sixth degree burn damage even the bone.
Impact to Quality of Life:
Following a burn injury, the impact to quality of life is significant. Severe scarring has a deep impact both mentally and emotionally. Even when the scarring is visible only to the person who suffered the injury, the damage to self esteem and self confidence can be devastating. When the scarring is visible to the outside world, the psychological issues are compounded, especially when the face is involved. In cases of severe burn injury, the likelihood of suffering post traumatic stress disorder is 77%. With post traumatic stress disorder comes an intense, painful and often routine reliving of the incident which is frequently disabling. In burn injuries, the severe trauma necessitated by the treatment within a burn unit only compounds the trauma and the likelihood of PTSD.
As a result of these issues, relationships are routinely impacted. Children who are burned do not frequently find the compassion we would hope for when they finally return to school. Given the need for repeat surgeries, academic achievement can be significantly impacted. With regards to adults, it is common for marriages and romantic relationships to fall apart. Even friendships are often strained and lost after the impact of such an injury.
Following a catastrophic burn injury, most find return to their previous life virtually impossible. Vocational ability is often impacted as a result of limitations such as hand and leg injuries, amputations, neurological damage and psycho-social impact. Additionally, after skin grafts, patients are routinely limited in their ability to be exposed to both sun and/or heat given that the grafts do not control temperature or allow sweating. Multiple studies show impact to earning capacity as a result of burn injuries.