Prevention and Care for Surgical Scars
There are so many aspects you have to consider when undergoing plastic surgery such as: selecting the proper surgeon, getting medical clearance from your doctor/s, preparing for surgery, arranging for post op care, scheduling massages, etc. With all these things in mind, it’s easy for some to-do’s to fall through the cracks, especially during post-op care when pain and discomfort can overshadow the need for self-care.
Taking proper care of your surgical incisions is one of the most important responsibilities you have as a patient to ensure optimal results. Anywhere an incision is made on the body, there is always the possibility of embarrassing marks forming. While a surgeon’s skill impacts the degree of scarring, so many other factors can affect the end result, which is why it’s crucial to treat your incisions with the utmost care.
As every plastic surgeon should, I personally provide my patients with specific care instructions for their incisions. Many scar risk factors can be controlled and with the right guidance from your surgeon on the prevention and healing of scars, you can attain the best results.
Recommendations on the Controllable Aspects of Scarring
- Incision Care: Only use the prescribed ointments by your surgeon. Do not use non-prescription ones. It’s important to protect the area from infection and following your surgeon’s post-op care instructions best helps to you achieve that.
- Avoid Physical Activity: Avoid performing any physical activity during your recovery that can hinder the healing of your incisions. Movement or exercise can reopen wounds and make the scars larger.
- Follow a Proper Diet: Protein is a key element to a nutritious diet during your healing period. Eating an adequate amount of protein during recovery helps your skin to fight scarring.
- Limit Sun Exposure: Normally, the sun can be harmful to unprotected skin. Healing skin is by far more sensitive to it. Avoid sun exposure until your incisions have fully closed and the stitches have been removed, at which point you should still limit sun exposure and use sunscreen and ointments to maintain your skin healing nicely.
- Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can cause your body to maintain homeostasis which prevents your scars from healing. Staying hydrated by drinking lots of fluids will keep your body’s healing process on the right track. Stay away from alcohol which causes dehydration.
- Get Plenty of Rest: An exhausted body will not apply the necessary resources to wound-healing. Getting enough rest by staying home from work, avoiding strenuous activity and sleeping during your recovery is vital following your procedure.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking has a negative impact on the health of your skin. Not only does it slow down your entire recovery process, it makes scarring more likely to occur. So, if you quit smoking prior to your surgery, continue to abstain throughout your recovery process for optimal results.
- Monitor for Infection: Learn how to tell the signs and symptoms of an infection prior to your surgery. The sooner an infection is noticed, the better the chances for avoiding scar complications and healing issues.
While there are scarring factors that can be controlled during the healing of your incisions, it is important to note that unfortunately, there are scar risks factors that can impact your surgical results which are beyond anyone’s control. Including:
- Genetics: Some patients are more genetically predisposed to scarring easily. Patients should inform their doctor prior to any procedure if they have family members who scar frequently.
- Skin Tone: Patients with darker skin have more of tendency to suffer from keloid and hypertrophic scars. Although patients with lighter skin are less likely to suffer from this, their scars may appear more noticeable.
- Age: As we age, our skin collagen production declines. We lose elasticity and firmness and our skin gets thinner. Therefore, aging and our lifestyle can slow down our skin’s ability to heal.
- The Rate your Skin Heals: This varies for everyone. Some patients simply heal quicker than others. Underlying factors such as an illness can have a direct impact on this.
In addition, chronic illness, weight, the dimension of your incisions and other factors can play a role in the healing process. The best thing you can do is to take proper care of your incisions following your doctor’s instructions to the letter.
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