When a victim suffers from a burn, several things will dictate how medical professionals treat it and what the prognosis looks like.
The amount of surface area a burn covers makes up some of the classification. The severity, symptoms and depth of burn injury also contribute to the three categories that doctors divide burn injuries by.
First degree burns
Stanford Health Care discusses the different categories that set burn injuries apart. From least to most severe, medical professionals grade burn injuries on a three-category chart: first-degree, second-degree and third-degree burns. They may also refer to these as superficial, partial thickness and full-thickness burns.
A superficial or first-degree burn is the least severe and generally only involves the epidermis, or the very outermost layer of skin. The area is often red, dry and tender, and may also cause the individual pain. Typically, this burn does not result in lasting damage. Any damage that occurs is often coloration differences, such as the skin growing lighter or darker.
Second and third-degree burns
Partial-thickness burns involve both the epidermis and part of the dermis, which is the thicker layer of skin below the surface. The area is often red and painful and will blister, unlike superficial burns. The skin may swell, too. This can cause lasting damage and will take longer to treat and heal than first-degree burns, but the epidermis and dermis are often intact.
Full-thickness burns often result in the destruction of the epidermis and dermis. Even the muscle and bone may end up burned depending on severity. The area looks white or charred and the victim will often not feel pain due to the burning of nerve endings in the area. This is the most severe form of burn and may threaten a victim’s life, requiring immediate and lengthy medical attention and rehabilitation and resulting in scarring.