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Burn injuries: degrees of damage

When people talk about organs in the body, you may think of the liver or kidneys, but your largest organ is the skin. Burned skin can seriously impair your health, and you should not take this type of injury lightly.

Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that, just like the other organs, the skin plays major roles in healthy body functions.

Epidermis

If you have a first-degree burn, it affects the outer layer of your skin, causing redness and pain, but without any blistering. This layer prevents substances such as bacteria from entering your body and keeps body fluids in. The epidermis contains pigment cells and creates replacement cells as old ones flake off. You may have scars after a first-degree burn. 

Dermis

A second-degree burn penetrates your epidermis and affects the layer of skin beneath it, the dermis. Collagen holds this layer together, and it includes nerves, sweat glands, hair follicles, and blood and lymph vessels. Blisters, redness, swelling and pain indicate damage to the dermis. Because the nerve endings that send touch and pain signals to the brain are in this layer, a second-degree burn can be very painful. 

Subcutis

If a burn goes all the way through the dermis, it harms the subcutis, which plays the essential roles of regulating body temperature and absorbing shock. You may not even feel a third-degree burn due to the destruction of the nerve endings. The skin typically looks white rather than red, and the muscles and bones underneath may also sustain permanent damage

Treatment for a burn may include skin grafts, plastic surgery, and physical, occupational and recreational therapy. The long-term effects of a burn can go much deeper than the immediate area, as well. You may need to see a psychiatrist to deal with mental and emotional damage, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety that often accompany burns. 

If another person's negligence caused your burn, an attorney may be able to help you acquire the compensation you need to cover medical expenses and lost wages during your recovery.

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