Burns - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Burns are severe skin damage that can be due to heat, chemical damage, electricity, or heat from the sun. There are different degrees of burns, and according to that, they can get better at home or may require long-term treatment at the hospital.

Understanding the layers of the skin:

The skin has three main layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis (subcutaneous tissue).

The epidermis is the topmost waterproof layer that contains different pigment cells and is responsible for different skin colors.

The dermis is the second layer underneath the epidermis and contains different structures such as blood vessels, sensory nerve endings, hair follicles, sweat, and sebaceous glands.

Underneath the dermis is the third layer, the subcutaneous tissue, also known as the hypodermis, which contains large stores of fat.

Degree of burns:

According to the layer of the skin involved, burns can be divided into three degrees:

First-degree burns: First-degree burns involve the epidermis. They are mild and appear red.

Second-degree burns: Second-degree burns involve the dermis along with the epidermis. They are painful and appear red. Blisters may form along with swelling.

Third-degree burns: Third-degree burns are extensive and affect all three layers of the skin. They are not painful because the nerve endings are destroyed.

Causes of burns:

There are different causes of burns such as:

  • Heat (from fire or candles etc.)

  • Steam

  • Chemicals like acids

  • Electricity 

  • Exposure to the sun

Complications of burns:

Burns need medical attention and care as they can have life-threatening complications. Third-degree burns have the highest risk of getting complicated. The complications of burns include:

Dehydration: Burns can cause severe dehydration because the skin serves as a waterproof lining to prevent the loss of water from the body. When the skin gets damaged, huge water losses can occur that can be life-threatening. It can cause electrolyte imbalance and other related complications.

Shock: This is when the patient’s blood pressure starts to drop. Since a lot of fluid is lost during burns, it can result in shock (hypovolemic shock). It causes low amounts of blood to reach different organs and thereby resulting in severe organ damage and death.

Infection: Skin affected by burns can get infected causing damage to that part, which may lead to amputation. If the infection spreads, it can result in sepsis- which can cause septic shock, a type of shock due to the spread of infection.

Skin damage: Burns can cause permanent skin damage such as scarring or tightening of the skin (contractures).

Other complications, can also result depending on the type of burn such as :

Arrhythmia: This refers to changes in heart rhythm. Electrical burns can cause arrhythmias.

Lung damage: Lung damage can occur due to inhalation of smoke during fires.

Treatment of burns:

The treatment of burns depends upon its degree.

First-degree burns are mild and can be treated at home with antibiotic creams and pain medications. While second and third-degree burns are serious and require medical care. The treatment usually involves:

  • IV fluid replacement to compensate for the fluid losses that occurred during the burn

  • Proper antibiotic coverage to prevent infections

  • Surgery for correction of permanent disfigurement of a part of a body 

  • Physical therapy 

  • Psychological therapy to help the victim cope with the emotional trauma. 


Burns is a serious condition requiring medical attention and care. The outlook for burns depends upon the extent of the damage. Some burns can be healed in a matter of days, while some take months of hospitalization. With patience and proper medical care, severe burns can also be healed, and the quality of life can return back to normal. 

Doctors For Burns

Dr. A. Fatah Sheik

General Physician

9 Years

Dr. Zia Ullah

General Physician

5 Years

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