Scab that won’t heal

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Signs and Symptoms of Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers

Skin cancers often don’t cause bothersome symptoms until they have grown quite large. Then they may itch, bleed, or even hurt. But typically they can be seen or felt long before they reach this point.

Basal cell carcinomas

Basal cell cancers usually develop on areas exposed to the sun, especially the face, head, and neck, but they can occur anywhere on the body.

These cancers can appear as:

  • Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar
  • Raised reddish patches that might be itchy
  • Small, pink or red, translucent, shiny, pearly bumps, which might have blue, brown, or black areas
  • Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in their center, which might contain abnormal blood vessels spreading out like the spokes of a wheel
  • Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that don’t heal, or that heal and then come back

Basal cell cancers are often fragile and might bleed after shaving or after a minor injury. Sometimes people go to the doctor because they have a sore or a cut from shaving that just won’t heal, which turns out to be a basal cell cancer. A simple rule of thumb is that most shaving cuts heal within a week or so.

Squamous cell carcinomas

Squamous cell cancers tend to occur on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the face, ear, neck, lip, and back of the hands. Less often, they form in the skin of the genital area. They can also develop in scars or skin sores elsewhere.

These cancers can appear as:

  • Rough or scaly red patches, which might crust or bleed
  • Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center
  • Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that don’t heal, or that heal and then come back
  • Wart-like growths

Both basal and squamous cell skin cancers can also develop as a flat area showing only slight changes from normal skin. To see some examples of basal and squamous cell cancers, visit our Skin Cancer Image Gallery.

These and other types of skin cancers can also look different from the descriptions above. This is why it’s important to have a doctor check any new or changing skin growths, sores that don’t heal, or other areas that concern you.

Scabs

Introduction

Scabs are a common symptom of skin infections, immune system skin disorders, and injury. Scabs result from the healing process, in which new skin grows over damaged skin. They may occur in conditions affecting one area of skin alone, or along with more generalized conditions, such as shingles, chickenpox, or eczema. Only in rare situations are scabs found on a significantly large area on the skin.

Wounds due to viral skin infections, including cold sores (herpes simplex), chickenpox (varicella zoster), or shingles (herpes zoster) are common causes of scabs. Blisters, lacerations, abrasions or burns may also cause scabs as they heal. Impetigo, a bacterial skin infection, can also result in scabs. Depending on the cause, scabs may occur only immediately following an acute injury, or they may be due to recurrent breakouts from a chronic condition, such as psoriasis.

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A rare autoimmune disorder known as pemphigus vulgaris creates skin blisters and causes scabs, and it may be accompanied by blisters that may appear on the entire body including the scalp and the inside of the mouth. Dermatitis artefacta (self-inflicted sores) and other mental disorders associated with self-mutilation behaviors may cause scabs, including repeated picking, rubbing or scratching.

Rarely are scabs a serious condition. However, any open wound can develop into a serious bacterial infection. Seek prompt medical care (call 911) if you experience scabs along with difficulty breathing, high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), or pus and redness around the scab.

If your scabs are persistent or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.

What other symptoms might occur with scabs?

Scabs may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the skin may also involve other body systems.

Skin symptoms that may occur along with scabs

Scabs may accompany other symptoms affecting the skin including:

  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Burning feeling
  • Crusting
  • Itchy skin
  • Pain or soreness
  • Pus or discharge
  • Redness, warmth or swelling
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Tingling sensation

Other symptoms that may occur along with scabs

Scabs may accompany symptoms related to other body systems. These symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Malaise or lethargy
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Nerve problems that cause pain, numbness or tingling

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

Rarely are scabs a serious condition. However, any open wound can develop into a serious bacterial infection. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms:

  • Fainting or change in level of consciousness or lethargy
  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Pus or redness around the scab
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea) or shortness of breath

What causes scabs?

Scabs are a common symptom of skin infections, immune-mediated skin disorders, and injury. Scabs result from a growth of new skin over damaged skin as your skin attempts to heal.

Wounds or scratches due to viral skin infections, including cold sores (herpes simplex), chickenpox (varicella zoster), or shingles (herpes zoster), are common causes of scabs. Blisters, lacerations, abrasions or burns may also cause scabs as they heal. Impetigo, a bacterial skin infection, can also result in scabs.

Traumatic causes of scabs

Scabs may be caused by injury including:

  • Abrasions
  • Blisters
  • Burns
  • Insect bites
  • Lacerations
  • Lesions

Disease causes of scabs

Scabs can also be caused by certain disease conditions including:

  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • Bacterial skin infection (impetigo)
  • Chickenpox blisters or shingles (varicella zoster virus)
  • Cold sores on your mouth and lips (Herpes simplex virus)
  • Dermatitis artefacta (self-inflicted sores)
  • Pemphigus vulgaris, fluid-filled blisters on your skin and mucus membranes (autoimmune disorder)
  • Psoriasis lesions (immune disorder)

Serious or life-threatening causes of scabs

In some cases, scabs may be a symptom of a serious bacterial skin infection that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include abscess and serious infection.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of scabs

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your scabs including:

  • Where do you have scabs?
  • When did you first notice the scabs?
  • Do you have scabs frequently?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of scabs?

Because scabs can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Scarring
  • Secondary bacterial infection
  • Spread of infection

When wounds won’t heal, try these strategies

SAN FRANCISCO – When your first or second attempts to help a skin wound heal haven’t worked, ask yourself three questions, Dr. Theodora Mauro suggested:

• Have you diagnosed the wound correctly?

• What systemic conditions are keeping the wound from healing?

• Have you tailored your treatment to the wound correctly?

Most dermatologists are pretty good at diagnosing ulcers that are caused by single etiologies. What Dr. Mauro sees more commonly in her busy referral practice, however, are wounds that won’t heal because of a combination of causes – often venous insufficiency plus something else, she said at the annual meeting of the Pacific Dermatologic Association.

Dr. Theodora Mauro

“That can make the diagnosis a little more confusing,” said Dr. Mauro, professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco and chief of the dermatology service at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Ulcer types

The most common skin ulcer in the United States is due to venous insufficiency. These patients tend to be spread among dermatologists, vascular surgeons, and podiatrists and “are not well served by being scattered among different disciplines,” she said.

Arterial ulcers make up 6%-10% of skin ulcers in the medical literature, and the incidence of diabetic ulcers is increasing, she added. Pressure ulcers are becoming more common as the population ages.

Morphology and the location of ulcers usually can distinguish the different types, but don’t forget to check the patient’s pulses and sensations, Dr. Mauro said. If you can feel pedal pulses, the patient is very likely to have a normal ankle brachial index (greater than 0.8). “It’s an easy thing to do and very helpful,” she said. Also, break a Q-tip cotton swab in half and poke the patient with the sharp end. “You’d be surprised at the number of people who have altered sensation” that’s contributing to the ulceration.

A common “combination” that gets missed is a nonmelanoma skin cancer and an ulcer at that site from venous insufficiency. Consider taking biopsies of nonhealing ulcers to look for skin cancer, she said. Long-standing ulcers can develop squamous cell carcinoma within them. A basal cell carcinoma can look like a healing ulcer, but not heal.

Bullous diseases also can be hidden in ulcers, particularly in the elderly. “There seems to be a two-hit thing with venous insufficiency where you have a little bit of blistering disease and you have a lot of hydrostatic pressure, and people will get their bullae on their legs long before they get it anyplace else,” Dr. Mauro said. “You put compression on and they come back next week and now they have intact bullae. Think about that as another cause.”

Less common ulcerative problems that can be confusing include pyoderma gangrenosum (which may be half as common as people think, studies suggest), an underlying vasculitis, or mycobacterial infections. If you see a nonhealing hyperkeratotic lesion, consider an atypical mycobacterial infection. In Dr. Mauro’s region, these usually are in patients who went mountain biking and inoculated themselves through an ankle scratch or in patients exposed to the organism through infected water during a pedicure.

Systemic conditions

Wound healing can be inhibited by things that doctors do, and by things that patients do.

Taking antimetabolite medications (such as hydroxyurea or methotrexate), prednisone, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can impair wound healing, as does smoking. Radiation to the site also inhibits healing. Think twice before irradiating a basal cell carcinoma on the leg of a patient with venous insufficiency. “It’s much better to either try some topical medication or just bite the bullet, do surgery, and put the Unna boot on after the surgery, because if you irradiate and it ulcerates, then it’s really hard to heal,” she said.

Coexisting cancer or arterial disease can inhibit wound healing. If you check pulses and can’t feel them, send the patient for an ankle brachial index to determine if there’s arterial disease, in which case the patient should see a vascular surgeon, she said.

When you’re taking patients’ histories, ask what they’re eating so you can assess whether they’re getting enough protein, zinc, and vitamin C. “You’d be surprised at the number of nutritional deficiencies that we see” in patients with nonhealing wounds. Her clinic picks up a zinc deficiency three to four times per year and a protein deficiency approximately twice a year. “All of these are things that you need to make collagen and granulation tissue,” she explained. Supplementation with Ensure can provide these nutrients, but a less-expensive option is Carnation Breakfast Essentials, at about one-fifth the cost, she added.

My cancer diagnosis

On Monday, Showtime’s series “The Big C,” about a middle-aged woman with life-threatening melanoma will premiere. On Wednesday of this week, I learned I was living it.

It started with a bump, a little scab on my head that wouldn’t go away. I can’t remember the exact day I first noticed it, but it was early summer. It was on the part of my hair, right near a scar from a childhood injury. I just figured I’d dinged myself up somehow and all my sun and swimming and hair care products were preventing it from healing properly. I hypochondriacally Googled “infected cuts,” never guessing for a moment I was chasing the wrong search term.

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Then last week I went to the dermatologist. I figured I’d get some antibiotics and ointment. Instead, when she looked at my scalp, she gave a little involuntary sucking-in of air and said quietly, “That looks like cancer.”

That’s how your life changes, in four words.

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She told me that because of the size and the thickness of the melanoma, we were going to have to be “aggressive” in treating it. I was to go to Sloan-Kettering the next day to meet with an oncologist for further tests, to determine if the cancer has spread. She further said I was almost certainly in for some chemo, and probably other forms of treatment as well. “It’s a lot of information,” she told me, “and I’m sure you have a lot of questions.” But I don’t. I just have one. Why?

My brand-new oncologist’s office called me a few moments later to discuss my imminent appointment. Things move very quickly when you’re in the Malignant Zone.

I’ve been applying industrial grade sunscreen to my skin, a vampire’s ideal pigment, most of my life. But nobody ever said that just walking around under the sky would make the top of my head vulnerable, that I ought to have been wearing hats this whole time. Skin cancer of the scalp is one of the deadliest forms of melanoma. It has nearly double the rate of fatality as cancers elsewhere on the skin. If it is advanced, the five-year survival rate is slim. Oh well, I always liked a challenge.

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“My life has become a shitty Showtime series,” I IM’ed a colleague. “Weeds?” he wrote back. “Dexter?” I typed back, “Inside NASCAR.”

A few moments after deciding that the rest of my day was going to involve beer and a Will Ferrell movie, my friend Larry, who has teetered on the fence of parental ambivalence for years, texted me two words: “Knocked up.” “Malignant,” I wrote back. Larry and his wife are expecting in January. I can’t wait to meet their baby. “And in 10 years,” he told me, “you and I are going to dance all night in Barcelona.” It’s good to have an incentive plan.

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I called my best friend in California, and got her voice mail. “I just got off the phone with my doctor,” I said. “And to give you an idea of how it went, I’m wondering a lot about my hair and my access to pot.” Moments later she called back, and channeling her inner John McEnroe, bellowed into my phone, “THIS IS BULLSHIT.” It was, coincidentally, her mother’s birthday. She would have been 72, had she not died of cancer when Sharon was a teenager.

I ate pretzel bites and jalapeño cheese for lunch, because, what the hell. I went to the movies. I threw a coin into the fountain at Lincoln Center and made a wish. I laughed at the perfect timing of it all when the Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child” came up on my iPod’s shuffle. I hid behind my sunglasses on the A train, tears streaming down my face. I told my daughters that Mama is sick, and she’s probably going to have to go through chemo like Grandpa did. “But then you’re going to get better, right?” my elder daughter asked. “I’m going to try really hard,” I replied.

On Thursday I spent several hours at Sloan-Kettering, answering questions and filling out forms. I sat in a waiting room full of quietly frantic-looking people watching “Deal or No Deal” and availing themselves of the free coffee. A young woman in lace knee socks, plaid miniskirt, and Led Zeppelin T-shirt typed lazily on her phone. I don’t think her peach fuzz hairstyle was a fashion statement.

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Next week, I am going back to have a portion of my scalp removed, and flesh from either my neck or my thigh grafted onto it — we don’t yet know which. Apparently the surgeon likes to wing it, skin graft-wise. I will wake up with a ping pong ball-size permanent bald spot, and a badass scar that I intend to go around telling people I got in Desert Storm. I am going to have lymph nodes removed and biopsied. And then, my new cancer doctor tells me, once we get the results from all that, we can begin my “treatment.”

A million years ago — Tuesday night — I went out for drinks with my agent, which was enough to make me lament my literary prospects and the folly of ever choosing to become a writer. “Why couldn’t I have been good at math?” I had cracked. I also can’t dance. I’m bad at sports. My navigational sense is so remedial I get lost in a grid system. I am unable to follow even simple directions, whether it’s a recipe or the assembly instructions for an IKEA shelving system. And I am pretty inept at self-diagnosing cancer.

But so far this year I’ve posed nude in a magazine, chased a pair of muggers into a Bronx housing project, swung on a trapeze, splashed in the ocean with my daughters, and opened my skeptical heart to love again. In November, I am going to Costa Rica to surf and party with monkeys. I’m crappy at a lot of stuff, but I am phenomenal at telling fear to suck it so I can go about the business of living. And so while I don’t know what the future holds, with every breath in me, I’m going to keep doing what I do best. And live.

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It’s time to think about the skin you’re in. New research presented at a recent meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology showed that between 1970 and 2009, rates of melanoma among young women (ages 18-39) have increased 800%. That makes it the second most common skin cancer in that age group.

While that percentage may scare you, skin cancer is curable if spotted early. Though doctors stress that patients need to be a partner in the process.

“Everyone should get really familiar with their own moles because that’s what’s going to save your life,” Dr. Julie Karen, a board-certified dermatologist in New York, told TODAY.

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What should you look for? The ABCDEs of melanoma are basic signs, with doctors urging you to check your moles for asymmetry, border, color, diameter and evolution.

The most important part is that last one: an evolving or changing mole, Karen said. That can include new symptoms like itching, scabbing and bleeding.

Your doctor should be checking areas of your body where you may not even realize you can get skin cancer, including the scalp, eyelids, between your fingers and toes, and behind the ears, said Dr. Debra Wattenberg, a New York dermatologist and founder of NY Skin RX.

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Here are seven warning signs never to ignore:

1. You notice an ‘ugly duckling’ mole.

Pay attention to a mole that doesn’t look like any of the others on your body, or is the lone mole on an otherwise spot-free part of your anatomy.

“A lot of people have moles that look sort of scary, but they’ve got 20 of them on their arm or their back,” Wattenberg said. “And then they have one that’s totally different looking. Usually, it’s the ‘ugly duckling’ — the one that stands out — that’s problematic.”

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Moles you’re born with can develop into skin cancer, she added. And just because you have a new mole, it doesn’t mean it will it turn out bad, but we get fewer new moles as we get older.

2. There’s a vertical dark streak on your nail.

“People often don’t think that you can get melanomas of the nail,” Karen said, noting it’s more common among African Americans. Singer Bob Marley was 36 when he died of acral lentiginous melanoma, which first showed up as a dark spot under his toenail and spread to his liver and other parts of the body.

The cancer can look like a pigmented black or brown streak extending the length of your nail. Or it can be mistaken for a blood blister that stays towards the base of the nail — the cuticle area — and never grows out.

Remove nail polish from your toes and fingers when you go for your skin check, Wattenberg advised. It’ll help your doctor find any linear streaks that could be melanoma, or bumps that could be basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer.

3. You experience vision problems.

The second most common type of melanoma is melanoma of the eye, said Dr. Sapna Patel, a melanoma oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Just like you’d have a mole on your skin, a spot can appear in the back of the eye. Doctors will only discover it when you get your pupils dilated during an eye exam.

Less than half of patients will actually have symptoms, Patel said. If you do have them, they may show up as blurry vision, floaters, a growing dark spot on the iris and other issues.

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4. You have a ‘pimple’ that won’t go away.

Basal or squamous cell skin cancer can look like a pimple that doesn’t clear up or go away after a few weeks, a sore that won’t heal or a scab that keeps recurring.

The “pimple” also may go away and come right back in the same spot, and it won’t have pus when you squeeze it, Wattenberg noted.

5. You notice a mole on the sole of your foot.

Many people have benign spots on the soles of their feet or the palms of their hands, but they should be checked out, especially if the mole is new or changing.

The problem is that people often don’t think to look for moles on the bottom of their feet and many aren’t limber enough to check there, Patel noted.

6. You experience changes after having a mole removed.

If you’ve had a mole removed and you start seeing pigmentation that’s extending outside the scar, that’s extremely concerning, even if the original mole was benign, Karen said. A mole that’s spreading beyond its initial footprint means it has now changed or progressed.

Be sure to tell your doctor if you spot a lump or a bump that occurs near the scar, or if you feel pain in that area.

7. There’s a black spot inside your cheek.

Another less-known location where you can get melanoma is in your mucous membranes, Patel said. That includes inside your cheek, nasal cavity, anal region and the vagina.

“None of these are caused by the sun,” she noted. “We’re not sure why people get those, which is important that people get their mucous membranes examined.”

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If you have a sore or wound that lingers over a period of weeks or months, it’s time to see your doctor. A chronic wound can lead to dangerous complications, but there are a number of treatment options to help avoid more serious problems.

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Chronic wounds, by definition, are sores that don’t heal within about three months. They can start small, as a pimple or a scratch. They might scab over again and again, but they don’t get better.

If you have a sore or wound that follows this pattern, it’s a red flag that you should consult a physician to start a care plan, says Cleveland Clinic Wound Healing Medical Director, Christi Cavaliere, MD.

“A comprehensive approach is really what makes the difference in getting healed,” she says. “So, people must get the comprehensive care they need from a primary care physician, a plastic surgeon, a podiatrist or vascular surgeon.”

While cancer can sometimes present as a chronic wound, chronic wounds typically fall into three main categories: diabetic ulcers, venous leg ulcers and pressure ulcers.

1. Diabetic ulcers

Diabetics are at greater risk for chronic wounds. Sores in this group of patients can lead to amputation, and immediate attention is recommended. Several factors contribute to chronic wounds in diabetic patients, Dr. Cavaliere explains. These include:

  • Neuropathy: Loss of feeling in the feet makes it more likely that small cuts or trauma will go unnoticed, leaving wounds at risk for infection.
  • Poor blood flow: Insufficient blood flow to the legs makes it harder for wounds to heal.
  • Infection: Compromised ability to fight infection puts diabetics at greater risk for wounds that progressively worsen and may require amputation.

To control chronic wounds, diabetics must follow a proper therapy plan and maintain control of their blood sugar levels. It is important to wear shoes that don’t create sores and keep toenails cut short. Other important factors include:

  • Physician attention: A physician must examine any foot wound a diabetic patient has as soon as possible. “It can’t wait,” Dr. Cavaliere says. “The stakes are too high and you need to make sure any infection is addressed.”
  • Nutrition: Adequate protein intake and proper hydration is vital to all wound healing. Diabetic patients must also eat foods that help maintain glucose-level control. Eating complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and vegetables, can help, she says.

2. Venous leg ulcers

Venous leg ulcers account for a high percentage of leg wounds. Frequently, they stem from uncontrolled swelling in the legs and tend to weep because the legs are overfilled with fluid. They can also be painful and itchy. Blood doesn’t flow back up the legs well with these wounds, so the legs often feel heavy. The skin around the wound can harden and become discolored.

Venous leg ulcers tend to recur and maintenance usually requires regular compression therapy such as compression stockings. Any leg swelling should be evaluated by a physician because many conditions cause swelling- some, such as blood clots, require more extensive evaluation or treatment.

Treatment options for venous ulcers may include:

  • Compression garments: ACE bandages or compression stockings help prevent fluid from pooling in the legs and can stave off future leg ulcers.
  • Vascular intervention: A vascular surgeon can help identify what underlying cause is contributing to leg ulcers.

3. Pressure ulcers

These wounds occur when pressure is constantly exerted on body tissue over a period of time. They can appear sometimes in as short a time as a few hours, Dr. Cavaliere says. The constant pressure compresses vessels that carry blood to keep the tissue alive, opening the door for injury.

Bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound patients are at highest risk for pressure ulcers, including those with spinal cord injuries or those with some form of dementia. Sores are most likely to develop on the tail bone, sacral bone or heels.

“Unrelieved pressure can lead to full-thickness tissue death, leaving large wounds and, potentially, exposed bone,” Dr. Cavaliere says.

The No. 1 treatment for pressure ulcers is simply removing the pressure. Turning or moving the body can prevent injury. Some patients may also require special mattresses or additional cushioning to protect bones. Untreated ulcers can develop into infections so severe that hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics are required.

Skin cancer

Skin cancers can look very different and the symptoms can vary. Some of the symptoms are similar to other conditions.

Common symptoms of skin cancer include a sore or area of skin that:

  • doesn’t heal within 4 weeks
  • looks unusual
  • hurts, is itchy, bleeds, crusts or scabs for more than 4 weeks

Speak to your GP if you have any of these symptoms or are worried about any abnormal areas of skin.

What to look out for

A sore that doesn’t heal

The sore can look see through, shiny and pink or pearly white. They can also look red. It may feel sore, rough and have raised edges.

Ulcer

Look out for an area of skin that has broken down (an ulcer) and doesn’t heal within 4 weeks, and you can’t think of a reason for this change.

A lump

This might be small, slow growing, shiny and pink or red.

Red patches on your skin

These red patches could also be itchy. This could be due to other non cancerous skin conditions. But get it checked to make sure.

Freckles or moles

A change to a mole or freckle can be a sign of another type of skin cancer called melanoma.

Looking for signs of skin cancer

Non melanoma skin cancers tend to develop most often on skin that’s exposed to the sun.

To spot skin cancers early it helps to know how your skin normally looks. That way, you’ll notice any changes more easily.

To look at areas you can’t see easily, you could try using a hand held mirror and reflect your skin onto another mirror. Or you could get your partner or a friend to look. This is very important if you’re regularly outside in the sun for work or leisure.

You can take a photo of anything that doesn’t look quite right. If you can it’s a good idea to put a ruler or tape measure next to the abnormal area when you take the photo. This gives you a more accurate idea about its size and can help you tell if it’s changing. You can then show these pictures to your doctor.

How to Heal Scabs on the Face

Scabs will heal on their own, but they may take more than a few weeks to completely do so. Here are some tips to speed scab and wound healing on your face:

Maintain proper hygiene

Keeping your scab clean at all times is important. This preventive measure will help avoid further irritation or infection.

If you must touch your scab, be sure to wash your hands before doing so. Avoid scrubbing or scratching your wound. These actions can prolong your healing time and trigger scarring.

Moisturize

A dry wound slows down the healing process. Keep your scab moisturized to speed your recovery and prevent accompanying symptoms, such as itching and tingling. Consider applying petroleum jelly daily to maintain moisture.

Don’t pick your scabs

As tempting as it may be, avoid picking or scratching your scabs. Scratching at your wound can interrupt the natural healing process and prolong your recovery. This can also cause infection, inflammation, and scarring.

If your scab itches, consider using a damp or dry washcloth to dab at the affected area. Be gentle, and don’t scrub your scab. It could trigger bleeding, redness, or other uncomfortable symptoms.

Apply antibiotic creams

Topical ointments or creams can alleviate itchiness, painful symptoms, and speed your recovery. Common over-the-counter (OTC) ointments, such as Neosporin, can be applied to the affected area. Apply only a thin layer of the ointment to your scab.

OTC ointments or creams containing benzoyl peroxide also contain antibacterial properties that can aid the healing process.

Shop online for OTC creams containing benzoyl peroxide.

Proper healing involves skin regeneration. Applying a warm compress to your wound may trigger skin regeneration and blood flow. These properties can speed your healing process while also providing relief from itchiness. A warm compress can also help maintain healthy moisture to your wound site.

Apply sunscreen

Scarring is a common concern of scabs, specifically on your face. However, protecting your scab in direct sunlight has been known to prevent scarring and speed healing to help scars fade.

In addition to moisturizing your scab, apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to prevent scarring.

Shop online for sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Pimple scab remedies

Share on PinterestApplying moisturizer is a good way to get rid of pimple scabs.

Scabs are the body’s way to protect itself.

Scabs protect wounds from infection and allow the skin underneath to heal. However, sometimes, the process does not work as well as it should or as fast as someone would like.

The following are some steps a person can take to help speed up recovery or avoid aggravating a pimple scab:

Avoid touching the area

Similar to not picking at or popping a pimple, a person should not pick the scab on the pimple.

Picking at the scab can reopen the wound, which can allow bacteria or other foreign bodies to enter.

If this occurs, the pimple can become infected. Picking, popping, or otherwise unnecessarily touching a pimple or scab can also delay healing time. It may also lead to scarring in some cases.

Use moisturizers

The scab on the pimple can become dry over time.

To keep the area moisturized, a person can try applying certain moisturizers. However, there is no guarantee that these will do anything to speed up the process of healing.

Some safe options may include moisturizers that contain:

  • tea tree oil
  • aloe vera. Learn about using aloe vera to treat acne here.
  • light moisturizers that do not contain oil and are noncomedogenic

Many acne moisturizers are available to buy online.

Apply a bandage

A bandage can help protect the area from further damage.

However, before applying a bandage, a person needs to make sure that the area is clean. We discuss how to achieve this in more detail below.

Keep the area clean

A person should gently wash the area with a gentle cleanser at least once daily, and any time it gets dirty.

If the area is not clean, it may take longer to heal and may become infected.

Following these tips can help keep the area clean:

  • Use a warm, moist compress.
  • Use gentle soap and warm water.

After washing, a person should dry the area completely. Patting the area works best to avoid accidentally scraping the scab off. Avoid rubbing the area dry.

How Wounds Heal

  1. Stopping the bleeding (hemostasis). When your skin is cut, scraped, or punctured, you usually start to bleed. Within minutes or even seconds, blood cells start to clump together and clot, protecting the wound and preventing further blood loss. These clots, which turn into scabs as they dry, are created by a type of blood cell called a platelet. The clot also contains a protein called fibrin, which forms a net to hold the clot in place.

  2. Inflammation. Once the wound is closed with a clot, the blood vessels can open a bit to allow fresh nutrients and oxygen into the wound for healing. Blood-borne oxygen is essential for healing. The right balance of oxygen is also important — too much or too little and the wound won’t heal correctly. Another type of blood cell, a white blood cell called a macrophage, takes on the role of wound protector. This cell fights infection and oversees the repair process. You might see some clear fluid on or around the cut at this time. That is helping clean out the wound. Macrophages also produce chemical messengers, called growth factors, which help repair the wound.

  3. Growth and rebuilding. Blood cells, including oxygen-rich red blood cells, arrive to help build new tissue. Chemical signals instruct cells to create collagen, which serves as a type of scaffolding, and other tissues to begin the repair process. Occasionally, you see the result of this process as a scar that starts out red and eventually dulls.

  4. Strengthening. Over time, the new tissue gets stronger. You might notice stretching, itching, and even puckering of the wound as that happens. Within 3 months, the wound is almost as strong in its repair as it was before the trauma. The entire healing process might take a couple of years to complete.

Interrupted wound healing

The process seems simple enough, but wound healing is actually quite complicated and involves a long series of chemical signals. Certain factors can slow or prevent healing entirely.

One of the most dramatic factors is reduced or inadequate blood supply to the wound. The oxygen and nutrients that new blood carries to the wound are essential to successful healing. A wound that is not getting enough blood could take at least twice as long to heal, if it heals at all. By some estimates, as many as 6.5 million people in the United States suffer with wounds that are not healing well. These are called chronic wounds, which are more common in elderly people or people with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, or other vascular disease.

If you have a wound that is not healing in a reasonable time frame, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. If your injury seems to be getting worse or appears infected — that is, if it is more swollen, hot to the touch, painful, or oozing pus — see a healthcare provider right away.

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