How do cuts
and scratches heal?
You are chopping up vegetables for tonight’s dinner
when the knife slips and you cut your finger. Cuts, scratches, and
abrasions are injuries that can happen fairly easy. They differ from
each other slightly. A cut is a slice through the skin that leaves an
open gash. A scratch is like a cut, but only through the top layers of
skin, not causing an open gash. An abrasion is a scrape that happens
when the skin is rubbed away, like carpet burn.
After getting a cut, scratch, or abrasion, your
skin may start to bleed. This happens because the injury breaks or tears
tiny blood vessels that are found just under the skin’s surface. Your
body wants to stop the bleeding, so it sends platelets.
At the site of the wound, platelets stick together
like glue. This is called clotting, which works like a plug to keep
blood and other fluids from leaking out. A scab, a hardened and dried
clot, forms a crust over the wound. This protects the area under the
scab so it can have time to heal.
Underneath the scab, new skin cells multiply to
repair the wound. Damaged blood cells are repaired, and infection
fighting white blood cells attack any germs that may have gotten into
the wound. You aren’t able to see under the scab, but a new layer of
skin is forming. When the new skin is ready, the scab falls off, usually
within a week or two. If you pick at a scab, the new skin underneath can
be ripped and the wound will take longer to heal. Picking at a scab can
also cause scars to form.