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Home > Illness & Symptoms > Skin > Burns > Cause for consumer description

Burns- Cause(s)

The skin is the largest organ in the body and performs many different important functions. For example, it protects the body from injury, prevents foreign particles from getting into the underlying tissues, maintains body temperature, and makes body oil to prevent the skin from drying out. However, the skin can lose its ability to perform these functions when it gets burned. 
Burns to the skin can be caused by many ways: contact with heat (steam, fire, hot liquids), contact with chemicals (bleach), contact with radiation (CT scans, MRI scans), or contact with electricity (from a power line). 

There are different degrees of burns. Besides referring to burns as first, second, or third degree burns, we now can also classify burns according to how deep the injury to the skin is: superficial, superficial partial thickness, deep partial thickness, and full thickness. 

Superficial burns or first degree burns 
- are the most minor of skin burns because only the first layer (or most outer layer) of skin is burned. These are usually due to an allergic reaction to medication or sun-burns. These burns normally heal in 3-6 days. The damaged skin will peel off in 1 or 2 days.  
Superficial partial 
- thickness burns or 2nd degree burns involve a burn to the first and a bit of the second layer of the skin. Hot liquid spills, brief contact with the hot surface of a stove, and severe sunburns can result in superficial partial thickness burns.  These burns normally heal in 2 to 3 weeks. The damaged skin may start to peel off over a few days so that new skin can take its place. 
Deep partial
- thickness burns occur when the first and second layers of the skin are burned. Coming into contact with extremely hot liquid, chemicals, and flames can lead to deep partial thickness burns.  Scarring or infections may be possible. These burns generally take a long time to heal.  
Full
- thickness burns are the most serious of skin burns because they involve all the layers of the skin as well as the tissue that lay under the skin (including fat, muscle, and bone). Immersing your skin into extremely hot liquid and coming into contact with electricity or flames can contribute to full- thickness burns.  Scarring is likely. These burns generally take a very long time to heal.       

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