What is skin tears?

Skin Tears
Jump to

Skin tears: Overview

As we get older, our skin gets thinner, drier, and more fragile. This makes the skin more likely to tear.

Skin tears can involve the top layer of skin or the deeper layers. The skin may split in a straight line. Or it may tear in a way that leaves a flap of skin. The flap of skin may cover all the wound. Or the flap may cover only part of the wound. And in some cases, there isn't any skin left to cover the wound.

Skin tears are treated by first controlling any bleeding. Then the wound is cleaned and covered with a bandage. Care will be taken to choose a bandage that doesn't cause further skin damage when removed.

Simple skin tears usually heal in about a month. A complex skin tear takes longer to heal and can become a chronic wound. How long you take to heal will depend on your body and the type of tear you have.

As your tear heals, it's important to keep it clean to help prevent infection.

How can you care for skin tears?

  • If you have pain, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • If you have a bandage, follow your doctor's instructions for changing it.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about bathing.
  • Gently wash the skin tear with plain water 2 times a day. Do not rub the area.
  • Let the area air dry. Or you can pat it carefully with a soft towel.

Skin tears: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the tear.
    • Red streaks leading from the tear.
    • Pus draining from the tear.
    • A fever.
  • The tear starts to bleed a lot. Small amounts of blood are normal.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.