A skin tear usually occurs in the elderly or those with fragile skin, as a result of a bumping into something, dressing changes with inappropriate dressings, or vigorous washing and drying of the skin.
The epidermis (outer layer of the skin) is separated from the dermis (inner layer of the skin), or both the dermis and the epidermis are separated from the underlying tissue.
Tears can be simple such as a split in the skin, or be more complex, to include skin loss, blood clots, and bruising. Skin tears mainly occur on the arms and legs, but can occur on any area that is bumped or scraped. Skin tears found on the front of the leg on the shin bone are called ‘pre-tibial lacerations’.
If you are elderly, you are more at risk of getting a skin tear as older skin has less collagen and elastin, which shows as sagging and wrinkling. This makes the skin less able to withstand normal wear and tear, so a simple bump will cause the skin to rip. Steroids can also cause the skin to thin, making it more at risk of tearing.
There are different categories of skin tears depending on the symptoms of the skin flap. Treatment will vary; the skin flap will be removed if the edges are fragile and there is a poor blood supply, or it may be left in place. A health professional will choose the best treatment for you.
Consulting a healthcare provider
If you think you or your loved one has a skin tear, then use basic wound care techniques. If you are unsure about a wound that persists or a skin flap that doesn’t appear to be healing, then you should also consult a provider. While you are caring for your wound at home per your provider’s instructions and the wound gets worse or persists or if there are signs of infection such as redness, swelling, fever, pain or burning, increased drainage, becomes warm to the touch, then consult a health care provider.
Products for Skin tears
Nurse and Patient Preferred Brand Mepilex® Border is an easy to use, all-in-one, hospital quality dressing featuring Safetac® technology.
Mepilex Border Flex (Oval)
Nurse and Patient Preferred Brand Mepilex® Border Flex (Oval) is an easy to use, all-in-one, hospital quality dressing featuring Safetac® technology.
Mepilex Border Lite
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Other Wound Types
Abrasions (or gazes) are superficial wounds, where generally, only the outermost layer of the skin (the epidermis) is rubbed away. Sometimes abrasions go deeper into the skin layers (dermis).
Many burns affect only the skin, and are superficial (like a sunburn). Burns that affect deeper tissue are classed as partial-thickness (wet, painful, pink or red) or full-thickness (dry, no pain, grey/brownish, may look like normal skin but without sensation) depending on the depth. All burns may be painful, and it is often the superficial and partial-thickness ones that are the most painful.
About 15% of people with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer due to aspects of the disease. Diabetes can damage nerves (neuropathy) and is often associated with poor blood circulation in the lower legs. These may make a person with diabetes more susceptible to wounds, infection and delayed wound healing.
Leg ulcers are breaks in the skin (generally below the knee) that can take a long time to heal due to underlying disease. You may hear them described as ‘chronic wounds’.
A pressure injury, often known as a pressure ulcer, pressure sore or bed sore, is an injury to the skin and underlying tissue caused when too much pressure is placed on the affected area.
Some patients who have radiotherapy or radiation treatments may experience skin reddening and breakdown in the area. These are called radiotherapy or radiation skin reactions.
Scars are a natural part of the skin’s healing process, following a wound or injury. Scars are formed when the dermis – the deep, thick layer of skin – is damaged.
Surgical Wounds or Incisions result when you have an operation, or if you get a cut accidentally. The incision, wound or cut is closed using stitches (sutures), clips glue or tape, depending on the site and depth of the cut.
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