Being misinformed is never ideal, especially when it comes to healthcare. Knowing the difference between scabs and eschar is pretty important, particularly if you’re susceptible to both. The term “eschar” is not interchangeable with “scab.” This is often part of the problem with so many people being misinformed. So, what is the difference?
Eschar is dead tissue found in a full-thickness wound that can affect any part of the body, but feet are especially susceptible. Eschar may be visible after a burn injury, gangrenous ulcer or fungal infection. Blood flow in the tissue under the eschar is poor, making the wound much more susceptible to infection. The eschar acts as a natural barrier to infection by keeping the bacteria from entering the wound. If the eschar becomes unstable, it should be debrided according to your doctor.
Dark patches of dead skin on the wound surface might be alarming to an individual who is recuperating from a burn wound or diabetic ulcer, but this tissue is a normal part of the healing process. In many cases, eschar may not even need to be removed – it will naturally fall off on its own. However, do not wait to visit your physician. If you see any changes in the color of your wound, contact your doctor immediately.
Scabs are found on superficial or partial-thickness wounds and they develop when a crust has formed by coagulation of blood or exudate. A scab is the brown, dry crust that forms over any injured surface on skin, typically within 24 hours of injury.
In less than 10 seconds after a break in the skin, the body does two things. It uses sticky blood cells called platelets to prevent an extended amount of blood loss from the wound. The body also deploys white blood cells to attack any outside substances that may have snuck in before the clot was fully formed.
To hold the clot in place, a thread-like protein called fibrin begins to form a structure throughout the clot. Consider it an organic bandage made by your own body. Scabs generally remain in place until the skin underneath has been repaired and new skin cells have appeared, after which it naturally falls off.
It’s easy to understand why so many people use “eschar” and “scab” interchangeably but it’s important to decipher the differences. If you find yourself concerned with either an eschar or a scab, be sure to visit your doctor and have them fully examine it. While both can often be treated with antibiotics and some cleansing solution, never wait to see your physician. Your doctor will be able to provide you with the best treatment plan for a safe and speedy recovery!