Scars

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What causes a scar?

The normal healing process in human tissue results in a scar.

What are symptoms and signs of a scar?

Scars occur at the site of tissue damage and appear as firm red to purple fibrous tissue that over time usually becomes flatter and lighter in color.

How are scars diagnosed?

Scars are almost always diagnosed by visual inspection. There are a number of rare situations when it may be necessary to examine scar tissue under the microscope to confirm its true identity. This would require a biopsy of the skin and may require the injection of a local anesthetic. Sometimes other skin conditions can form in a scar and require a biopsy in order to be diagnosed.

What is the treatment for a scar?

Since scars are part of the normal healing process, ordinary scars are not treated. Only when superficial scars become cosmetically undesirable do they require treatment. This would include scars in those who are predisposed to develop keloids, as well as scars in anatomical regions known to produce thick scars and scars that produce a significant, unpleasant distortion of adjacent anatomical structures. Thick scars and keloids often flatten out after injections of steroids directly into the fibrous scar tissue. They can respond to the chronic application of pressure and the application of sheets of silicone rubber. Thick scars can be flattened by dermabrasion, which utilizes abrasive devices to sand down elevated scars. Certain types of depressed scars can be elevated by the injection of a cosmetic skin filler. Certain types of facial scarring respond well to forms of laser treatments. Occasionally, surgical revision of scars can result in a different scar that is much more desirable. Since it takes about a year for scars to mature, it is frequently prudent to wait before starting any invasive surgical treatment.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/16/2015

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