A skin tear usually occurs in the elderly or those with fragile skin, as a result of a knock or vigorous washing and drying of the skin.
The epidermis (outer layer of the skin) is separated from the dermis (inner layer of the skin), or both the dermis and the epidermis are separated from the underlying tissue.
Tears can be simple such as a linear laceration, or be more complex, with include tissue loss haematoma and bruising. Skin tears mainly occur on the arms and legs, but can occur on any area that is knocked or scraped. Skin tears found on the front of the leg on the shin bone are called ‘pre-tibial lacerations’.
If you are elderly, you are more at risk of getting a skin tear as older skin has less collagen and elastin, which shows as sagging and wrinkling. This makes the skin less able to withstand normal wear and tear, so a simple knock will cause the skin to rip. Steroids can also cause the skin to thin, making it more at risk of tearing.
There are different categories of skin tears depending on the symptoms of the skin flap. Treatment will vary; the skin flap will be removed if the edges are fragile and there is a poor blood supply, or it may be left in place. Your health professional will choose the best treatment for you.