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Scabs: They Plug the Holes in Skin.

Updated on November 2, 2010

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This little girl seems quite calm about her grazed knee.  It will soon be repaired by her immune system.
This little girl seems quite calm about her grazed knee. It will soon be repaired by her immune system.

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Scabs: They Plug the Holes.

If it were not for the ability of our bodies to form scabs over cuts and grazes, we would all have to walk around in a suit of armor as even a minor wound would let us bleed to death or be so invaded my bacteria and viruses, we would soon be overcome with one or more of many diseases.

The reason blood soon stops leaking out of minor wounds involving just the first layers of skin - the Epidermis -is that the Thrombocytes - called Platelets as they look like tiny plates and are contained all around the body in the blood - come in contact with the edges of the wound or abrasion and release some special substances. The chief of these is Fibrinogen which quickly releases Fibrin, a string-like material which catches all the loose blood cells and weaves them into a barrier, which we call a clot, and stops capillary blood from leaking any further.

The clot then begins to shrink without letting go of the edges of the wound but bringing the torn edges closer together; the blood in the clot hardens and darkens forming a hard crust preventing microorganisms from entering and spreading an infection. Underneath this barrier, the repair gang get to work making new skin cells to replace those damaged and destroyed in your minor accident. By then, the body’s defense system is in place all around the wound, the white blood cells and other “soldiers” attacking and killing any virus and bacteria that had all ready entered. That most useful of concoctions - Pus - appears inside the scab, formed from some friendly warriors called Phagocytes, which mop up bacteria and dirt; they die themselves in the process and form the yellowy-creamy goo , which is a necessary part of healing any wounds that have not scabbed-over before pathogens had a chance to enter - which is most.

This process takes care of minor cuts, scratches and grazes which only involve the first layer of the skin. When the wound is more serious and extends down to the second layer, the Dermis, heavier duty defenses are involved. These are special large cells called Fibroblasts which use Collagen to produce gristle-like connective tissue. With this type of wound, we generally help the body in its repair efforts, stitching the wound together with plasters or sutures where possible This minimizes the size of the scar as less repairs are needed by the fibroblasts in pulling the edges of the wound together and filling in with hard scar tissue. We may apply dressings and antibiotics to also help keep the wound clean allowing the body to heal more easily.

Hard men (read idiots) today have used the body’s scar-building ability to create crude lettering on their bodies (such as US footballers and basketball players who brand themselves, thinking such daft macho behavior makes them seem more manly) This behavior to me is just extreme masochism and a dark pastime indeed…a disturbing development is that British girls have also taken to disfiguring themselves in this way. If we keep this up with all the piercing, tattooing and scarring we shall give the Masai a run for their money - and our bodies may just give up in disgust and let the virus have us! You have to wonder what sort of psychological trauma lies behind this behavior…a desperate search for individualism perhaps.

The whole process of scab building along with the formation of new skin is a complicated and delicate process for the body, and one best helped by the patient. The worst thing we can do - but is so hard to resist - is picking at the scab and pulling it off before the epidermal skin repair is complete. This means the body will have to start over sending in the repair crews which find it tougher the second time around. They have difficulty wading through the pus and scab formation in order to make a clean repair. The wound becomes infected more easily, as bacteria, etc., are in place ready to jump in. Even if there was no, or little inflammation the first time - the ideal - you are sure to see it the second time around. All this will add up to a longer and more irregular repair and a larger scar if the dermis is involved. Leave scabs alone, they will fall off when ready

…Pick this, scratch that: poking, prying, plucking, petting…stop being so narcissistic!


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    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Starry: Yeah, and a wound never heals as fast or well the second time around...Bob

    • profile image

      Starry 7 years ago

      The point of a scab is to fill the hole that is made in your skin. Pulling the scab off is just ripping the wound even further apart. Strange.. Huh.. :-/ x