Every once in a while, people end up with cuts, lacerations or puncture wounds. The severity depends on the situation, and when they aren’t crucial, the body can often begin to repair itself. But in some instances, these injuries can be serious, and it’s best to take care of the wounds right away. Within a few hours, infections can set in and cause more problems if the skin is broken through or gaping and medical attention is not received.
So, how do you determine when a cut, laceration or puncture is severe? You can get a seemingly innocent cut, but how do you know when it’s superficial or extremely deep? And what if it’s excessively bleeding? How much blood loss is too much, and when should the wound stop bleeding?
Here are a few ways to determine whether your skin injury needs medical attention and possibly sutures and stitches to support the healing process:
A sharp object cuts you
Deep cuts by an object can be severe because many things can be dirty and bacteria-prone. When an object slices or enters the body, it can cause an infection. Infections take a little time to develop, but they can make the wound worse. Pay attention to any signs of pain, swelling, tenderness around the wound, or if you develop overall symptoms such as fever or nausea.
The bone is showing
If your cut is past the point of blood and skin, seeing one of your joints like bone or muscle is a big sign that you need immediate medical attention. Prolonged exposure can lead to infection, especially when exposed to foreign objects such as nails, blades or bites.
It’s a deep cut with gaping
If your cut is really deep, especially on specific areas of your body—such as your head or neck—you may require medical attention due to the possibility of excessive and prolonged bleeding. If the cut is wide enough to the point where the edges cannot close, there’s a good chance you’ll need to receive stitches to help keep the wound closed while it heals. Treatment is more likely needed too when wounds are longer than 20 mm (0.75 in.) or deeper than 6.5 mm (0.25 in.).
The cut is directly over a joint
When a cut is over a joint, it can be severe because there’s not as much skin, tissue or fat in the area keeping it from being exposed. These types of cuts often come from blunt objects, and they typically cause swelling and tissue damage.
Of course, in some cases, cuts, lacerations or puncture wounds may not need treatment at an urgent care facility or emergency room. If your injury is minor, when the edge of your skin is tight and stays together, or there is no extreme bleeding, you may be able to administer at-home care. Once these smaller wounds heal, there may or may not be a scar left behind. However, even if these cuts might not need stitches, there is still a chance for them to become infected, so it’s essential to monitor the injury and seek treatment when needed.
And another great way to determine if you need care is by identifying the type of wound you have. There are differences between a cut, laceration and a puncture wound. Making an assessment of which you have can help you make the best decision for your medical treatment needs. Here are the main differences between each type of wound:
Cuts break open the skin and can cause some bleeding. Often referred to as a laceration, most individuals think of a cut as a superficial injury that typically heals on its own. Cuts can be smooth, deep or jagged. They can also be surface level, such as a paper cut. A deep cut—generally wading in the direction of a laceration—can affect tendons, muscles, bones, ligaments, nerves, veins, or arteries.
A laceration is a type of cut that is often irregular or jagged in nature. Softer body tissue is torn through by an object, sometimes leaving behind debris and bacteria. Lacerations tend to be deeper than cuts and are more likely to need a suture and stitches to heal properly.
Generally caused by a sharp, pointy object going directly into the body in a particular direction, a puncture wound does not usually bleed excessively and typically looks like it’s about to close up. Nails, teeth, tacks and other things are often the culprits of these wounds. Because these items are covered in bacteria, infections can be common and should be treated immediately.
If you experience a cut, laceration or puncture wound or have one that may be infected, consider seeking medical advice immediately. If you feel your condition is a true emergency, please call 911.
Bayfront Health ER & Urgent Care is the only location in Cape Coral that offers emergency and urgent care services under one roof. Patients are only billed for the level of services they need. Bayfront Health ER & Urgent Care’s emergency room is open 24 hours a day, every day and the urgent care center is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. There are no appointments needed for in-person visits.