For many patients scars are not only a physical reminder of injury; they have been shown to greatly impact patients’ mental health, confidence and self-esteem according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Patients that have facial scarring or scars in visible areas make up the largest group of individuals with scars struggling with their self-image. However, patients with scars in areas that are not visible to others still suffer from negative body image and insecurity. Results of this study show that scars alter a person’s physical appearance and negatively impact a person’s quality of life. Many patients who are anxious to minimize their scar’s appearance seek out plastic surgery professionals for help.
Plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Peterson, M.D., treats patients for different types of scarring in his Topeka, Kansas, plastic practice. “Many patients looking for scar treatment are looking to regain their confidence.”
As a result of the demand of patients for scar treatment and revisions, plastic surgeons have studied the reasons why scars occur in order to better treat scar sufferers and provide positive results. When the skin is broken as a result of injury or surgery, the body produces the protein collagen to cover the wound during healing. This wound may result in a scar even with proper care. If the body produces too much collagen resulting scars will be raised. Raised scars are often referred to as keloid scars. When the body produces too little collagen during the healing process, resulting scars become indented. Flat scars are another type of scarring that can occur, usually as a result of a burn or an abrasion.
To minimize scars, many plastic surgeons offer several different approaches to treatment. One such treatment is the use of injectable fillers. Fillers are minimally invasive and require a local anesthetic. This approach is used to even out scars that have developed as a result of too much collagen. Fillers smooth out the excess collagen and improve the scar’s appearance by making the area smoother. The treated area is massaged into in order to promote absorption of the filler material into the skin. Patients that choose injectable fillers to treat their scars will receive their injections in their plastic surgeon’s office over a series of visits.
Injectable fillers work for raised scars, but scars that are indented as a result of too little collagen require different treatment. Many plastic surgeons offer laser treatments and subcision, a process in which scar tissue is broken up in order to generate new collagen to smooth out a scar’s appearance, as alternative options scar treatment. Some scars may need a combination of treatments to effectively reduce their appearance.
Plastic surgeons also help patients manage their scars and their expectations by explaining available treatment options and treatment timelines. Dr. Peterson says, “Some scars fade significantly over time, so it may be advisable for a patient to wait before undergoing treatment.”
Some patients use self-care steps to minimize scarring or improve their scar’s appearance. Dr. Peterson says, “Minimizing activity that could reopen new wounds decreases the chance of scarring.” Peterson adds that keeping the wound clean, changing dressings and following care instructions regarding stitches also minimizes the chance of a scar.
Some individuals who want to minimize their scar’s appearance turn to over the counter treatments. These treatments have not been proven to work in all cases, so results vary among individuals. Many doctors do recommend the use of petroleum jelly on wounds to keep the wound area moist and flexible as it heals. Patients should also use sunscreen to protect the wound from UV rays that darken or lighten the scar and make it more noticeable.