Physical and Emotional Consequences of Burn Injury

Preventing Chronic Pain

Burn pain can induce chronic problems, which means that you should manage your condition immediately after an injury. Untreated pain may easily spin out of control, or example, heightened anxiety and other long-term problems can happen more easily. Here’s a couple of common physical processes that often cause problems later on, when inadequate pain management is performed after a burn injury:

Hypermetabolism, it is a condition when your body’s energy output goes beyond normal level. Additionally, catecholamine neurotransmitters are released when our body is subjected to the stress of injury, which increase body’s energy output even more. This condition reduces blood flow in and around the burned area. Furthermore, poor blood flow will hamper the healing process.

As the blood flow is decreasing, the intense pain may also curb our immune system, which may cause infections and other dangerous complications more likely to happen. Excruciating pain also tends to derail normal blood flow. So, if the doctor fails to deal with the pain aggressively, the burn injury will heal much more slowly.

Burns Treatment

It is absolutely necessary to do everything to control pain and encourage healing in the first weeks of burn injury, to prevent the intense pain from changing into chronic pain. After the emergency procedure is completed, the patient still needs to endure the painful treatment procedure, which includes debridement (removal of dead tissue), cleaning of the affected area, exercising the burned joints and limbs, and a skin graft. Additionally occupational and skin therapies should begin as soon as possible to regain normal functions to the affected areas. On more severe cases, burn patients need multiple surgeries. These are long-term medical issues that should be expected for burn victims:

Scarring: About one week after the incident, our skin will start to generate scar tissue. During this critical period, a close observation is necessary to see whether the scar forms properly. If after one week to ten days, there are no significant improvement to the burn injury, it important to clean the area, cut away dead tissues and perform skin graft. Without these steps, the regenerated skin will be marginally protective and very thin. In some cases, ugly protruding scars called hypertrophic scarring or granulations may grow out of control. To prevent this condition, a special garment should be used to apply some pressure on the affected area. Even after a treatment, the victim can still be badly disfigured and it may cause serious adjustment issues. Fortunately, some new methods are being developed, for example, the facial transplants.

Contractures: Scar tissue may form immediately after a fire accident; the joints can no longer perform properly due to contracting skins. To prevent contractures of shortened muscles, which can lead to deformities, patients should perform an excruciating exercise treatment which involves physical exercises on the affected joints. When done repeatedly, more serious complications can be prevented. However, if contractures do occur, they should be removed surgically.

Inability to sweat: On second and third-degree burns, sweat glands are destroyed or badly damaged. Unfortunately, unlike outer skin and tissue, we can’t regenerate sweat glands. Sweating is needed to regulate body temperature, which may cause patients to feel discomfort in humid, cold and hot environments. Sweating problem can also make physical exercises more difficult to do.

Skin problems: Due to the absence of sweat- and oil-producing glands after a burn injury, the skin can be very dry. Additionally skin that covers old burn wounds tends to be more vulnerable and weaker than normal skins. Without adequate precautions, injuries and infection can happen more easily on scarred areas.

Effects of Burn Injuries on Emotional Health

Severe burn injuries may happen in a transportation accident, chemical explosions or burned buildings. Among the resulting mental problems is PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, a severe anxiety syndrome that is characterized by constant re-experience of the traumatic event. People with this problem may heal very slowly, both emotionally and physically. PTSD may happen immediately after the incident or months later. These are symptoms of PTSD related to burn injuries:

Obsessively recalling the incident repeatedly, so much that it intrudes family members and others.

Fearful of fire.

Experiencing nightmares about the incident.

Feeling incapacitated emotionally.

Being easily startled, overly alert and hyper-aroused.

Experiencing regular flashbacks.

A victim of burn injury is considered to have chronic PTSD symptoms if the above symptoms last longer than 3 months. One of the unfortunate results of anxiety disorders is reduced quality of life. Additionally experts linked PTSD symptoms to worsening health conditions, which can make them more vulnerable to issues unrelated to burn pains. These are long-term physical effects of PTSD:

Discomforts with no medical basis.

Fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach pain and other digestive problems.

Asthma and breathing problems.

Low back pain and muscle cramps.


Sleep disorders.

Cardiovascular problems.

You should seek professional helps from those who are trained to treat your syndrome. For example, PTSD is more commonly associated with war veterans instead of burn victims, VA has a specialized program to assist former soldiers with this emotional disorder. Just like veterans, burn victims can also benefit from an “exposure therapy”. In this therapy, you’re asked to tell about the traumatic event to other participants. A counselor is present to control your fears and wild thoughts while you’re re-experiencing the event. This therapy is usually accompanied with prescribed medications, such as painkillers and antidepressants.

Seeking Help

There are a number of groups that can help burn victims and their loved ones. They can also patients with post-traumatic emotional disorders:

ABA (American Burn Association): It has a goal to improve quality of care for burn patients. Their therapy includes treating physical burn injuries, training for fire accident prevention, scientific publications and annual meetings.

Burn Recover Center: It has more than 100 burn recovery hospitals around United States, which mean that you can get a specialized treatment for your burn injuries than on a general hospital.

Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors: The name is inspired from a mythical bird, which is consumed by flame but rises again from its ashes, renewed and flies with a full vigor. The organization has advocacy, education and peer support for burn survivors.

ADAA (Anxiety Disorders Association of America): This organization focuses itself to prevent and treat anxiety disorders.

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