Slepian Smith, PLLC

Understanding different types of burn injuries

Many of us have gotten burned at some point in our lives, whether it was by touching a hot pan or spending too much time in the sun without proper protection. These burns are often painful – but temporary.

Then there are far more severe types of burns that cause catastrophic and permanent injuries. While these burns may be less common, they still affect thousands of people every year. Below, we explain in more detail the various types of burns and the impact they can have on victims’ lives.

Types of burns

Perhaps the easiest way to explain the different types of burn injuries is by degrees.

  • First-degree burns damage only the skin’s outer layer. These superficial injuries are among the mildest of burns, and they may or may not require medical attention. Sunburns and scalding injuries are often first-degree burns.
  • Second-degree burns damage the top two layers of skin. They are more serious than first-degree burns and typically lead to blisters, redness and pain. Some second-degree burns heal well on their own over the course of a couple weeks; others require surgery and lengthy recovery.
  • Third-degree burns cause damage to all three layers of skin. These burns may not be painful, due to extensive nerve damage, but they can affect muscles and joints. They can also be life-threatening. Often, recovery from these burns is lengthy.

Complications from burns

Burn injuries can be serious on their own, though certain aspects and complications of a burn can make the injury worse.

For instance, if a burn affects a large portion of a person’s body, treatment can be more complicated. If the burn affects other body systems, like the senses, respiratory system or cardiovascular system, the victim may be unable to move, breathe or heal without medical assistance.

Burn injuries are also susceptible to infections, which could lead to sepsis and possible loss of limb. People can also suffer scarring and disfigurement as a result of serious burns.

When a burn or burn-related condition is severe and causes extensive limitations in a person’s life and abilities, it could be considered a disabling condition. In these situations, financial support through programs like Social Security Disability will be critical for those who qualify.

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