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Scar sensitivity
jaye_voy wrote in little_details
Hello,

I'm new to the community and couldn't find this info in the "search by category" or the tag list, so I apologize if it's there and I've missed it.

I was wondering if anyone could provide a link/info about the sensitivity of scar tissue. I'm finding conflicting information: some sites/articles say the tissue is deadened/numb, very little sensitivity, while others suggest the scars would be full of new nerves, excruciatingly oversensitive.

Is it one or the other? Possibly both, changing over time? The scenario involves scars of deep slash wounds, one character's are 1-2 years old and not given follow-up care after stitching, while the other's are around 15 years old and have been treated (regularly massaged/oiled after stitches were removed to help keep them supple and break up the underlying scar tissue). I'm assuming that the first character's scars would be very ridged and red while the second one's would be paler and fainter, but what would the sensitivity be?

Thanks so much for your help,
Jaye


Wow, thank you for all of the replies---and so quickly! I really appreciate you sharing your experiences/opinions with me.

The story is not modern day (more like medieval times, with one culture having better healing knowledge than the other). I was assuming crudely stitched slash wounds would be ridged, but it looks like I should reconsider the appearance of the scars, as well as their sensitivity.

Probably depends on the individual, in all honesty. Everyone's skin is different.

In my case, those scars I have that are large enough for me to notice sensations on basically have no sensitivity on the surface millimeter or so, but below that they're every bit as sensitive as normal skin. I think they seem more sensitive because it's more of a shock when they get injured--unlike normal skin, they don't have continual pain as the skin is penetrated, it's more like 'la dee da OH (@*&#% SUPER-SENSITIVE LAYER'.

My experience comes from a scar on my knee that was about five years old at the time, 3-4 millimeters thick that was cut open by a shard of glass. Nowadays, I can still poke that scar and while I won't feel my finger on the skin surface, I can feel the pressure of it further down. If that makes any sense.

For the record, all of my scars, coming from injuries that both were and were not stitched/cared for, appear to be lighter and slightly smoother than my normal skin, and sometimes raised a bit.

I don't know if this helps, but from personal experience, the scar on my wrist is three yeas old, and the entire thing feels like it's "ripping" if I bend my wrist too often/too far. It was never stitched, is pure white, and slightly raised, if any of that matters.

And I have a friend who has a large scar on his neck that he's had for years, and he's complained of a "burning" sensation now and then, but what causes that we've never really been able to pinpoint.

I think I can answer that! Scars are just like regular tissue, except the tissue is 'thicker' and less flexible to prevent later injury to the same spot. If he turns his head too far, the skin on the edge of the tissue gets pulled past its normal stretch point and burns.

*pokes at ten year-old knee scar* Doesn't hurt now. But I think I remember some sensitivity after it closed. That, and whenever I hit it even slightly, I was paranoid that it was going to open up again >_>

Anyway, as for how it looks and everything, mine (which was stitched up/cared for) is very pale and smooth.

Hope I helped some :3

I have two scars that involve puckered/raised tissue - one on my hand, from a cut from glass in 1990, and one on my arm, from a tiny second-degree burn in 1998-1999. Neither are markedly different from the rest of my skin - but I just poked them both a little, and the burned scar feels less, and the cut scar feels a little more. I applied some pressure on them from a pen point. Skin - felt it, no pain. Burn scar - barely felt anything. Cut scar - mild pain.


Judging by my experience, which is based on surgery, though, a scar that's one or two years old, is properly healed but will be still rosy. While it's still healing, it's over-sensitive, but later mine became slightly number than the surrounding skin tissue.

At least my scar was very sentitive, though, whenever it came to the weather changing from humid to dry or vice versa. It didn't really hurt, but there was always some slightly burning sensation for a day or two. It took at least five years until that sensation stopped.

The more I think about it, it wasn't so much the scar as such that burnt when the weather changed, but the flesh underneath. It seemed to me that the skin healed much faster than the injured tissue below.

For all practical purposes there's no such thing as "new nerves." They almost never recover.

The issue is less the sensitivity of the scar and more the sensitivity of the tissue around the scar to it. The scar itself is just, well, scar tissue, but just like you can feel pressure through a shoe or a belt, you can have sensations transferred through the scar.

I was "lucky" enough to have a scar whose underside was pointier than it had any business being for awhile. Touching it hurt like hell, but it was obviously the internal tissue that was hurting. When the scar itself was removed finally, I didn't feel that at all, and any pain in the finger from its presence almost immediately went away.

From splitting my chin open twice, my scar is actually 'dimpled' inward, but I think that's because of the location. There are a few ridges to it, but overall it's a dent in unless I pull my lower lip up, then it's got a few bumps. It's actually relatively sensitive, thin skin and little muscle tissue below it is possibly why for that. Not sure if my info helps, but I think sensitivity might deal a little with how much muscle tissue is below the scar, sort of the same idea with tattoos.

Varies a lot. You can probably write it however you'd like. If the injury destroyed nerves, they could lack feeling. On the other hand, scar tissue can grow and press against nerves, making everything around the scar very sensitive and painful, especially when the skin is touched or stretched. And sometimes scars feel pretty normal. Since every individual and every wound is different, go with what makes sense for your story.

You also might want to consider going for sunken scars, not ridged ones, for deep slashing wounds. The slash scars I've seen were sunken, because a deep slash damages the fat and muscle underneath the skin and they don't hold skin well afterwards. I don't know about fifteen years later, but certainly a year or two later is still indented.

they're slash wounds, so these are going to be thin and deep (this makes a difference, trust me). I would say there's a lack of sensitivity, but at the same time over sensitive (hear me out).

I have a bad scar on my thumb, basically down the center and slicing it in half lengthwise. If I press on stuff, it can't feel as carefully, right over it - instead of feeling details, I'll feel a sort of tingling throughout the nearby area. Sharp things, like a fingernail or needle, cause very little pain and mostly a weird tingly numb feeling up and down the scar, as long as all of the pressure is exactly over the scar only. But just on the very side of it, it hurts quite a bit, enough to notice, but less than when it was new, lessening as you get further away. This scar is around 5 years old.

Also, just a little pressure in the wrong place (not even near the scar) can make my whole thumb really really hurt for a moment (like it's being stabbed) and then be very tingling-ly numb and painful for quite some time. However, if I don't hit this area, the thumb is basically lacking in sensitivity, but only slightly. I hit the area a lot more when the scar was newer - now it only happens every few months.

My older scars have no difference in sensitivity from when the rest of my skin, but they're from a different type of wound all of them, shallow but wide injuries.

Also, massaging and stuff - I have little experience because most of my scars are, again, wide and flat, but the unmassaged one would probably be a little like my more recent, unstitched (year old) chin wound - if you feel it, you can still feel the scar tissue going further under, but it's not as deep as, say, a month after. It's not in a good place to judge sensitivity.

The thumb wound is sunken and thin. My only ridged scar (out of many) was the chin wound. I would say that a stitched stab wound would not be ridged. I personally would guess that the ridging comes from the skin having a long way to heal across.

I have extensive scarring on my limbs - Someone mentioned above that the scar tissue itself is numb on the surface, but the surrounding tissue is far more sensitive - absolutely correct! This means if there is any injury to the scarred area, it is far more painful than healthy tissue, despite the loss of sensitivity. (I hope that makes sense - it does sound contradictory - both loss of feeling & increased pain!)

Someone also mentioned that the scars are initially raised, & then they sink into deep valleys below the skin/flesh. Again, absolutely true - don't know how many years it took, but my scars are now sunken.

Just two "big ones" and one small one. The one on my left calf from a VERY botched mole removal is still pink and it's much shinier than the other surrounding skin. It was stitched but they ruptured and I had an allergic reaction to the sutures. (Also? It's like there is a hole under there.) It hurt a lot when it was first stitched, but now it's lacking in sensitivity.

The scar on my right knee cap from surgical repair an avulsion of the tibial plateau is about four inches long and barely noticeable because it was made to blend in with the contour of the knee cap. (THAT surgeon? AN ARTIST. It was also completely immobile for two months. YAY ankle to knee cast.) I did that when I was sixteen... 1992 and I STILL fail at shaving there. I miss all the time and sometimes cut it. Pressure I can feel... hard pressure, but light pressure? It's all tickly and wrong feeling.

The odd thing there... I dated a guy who blew out his spinal cord in an accident before I met him... it was an incomplete injury, T-11 to L-1, so he had some feeling in his upper legs, no pain, no heat and cold, just pressure. He was 'poking around' and noticed the scar and that I'd "missed a spot" shaving my legs and ended up playing around with it and having me "describe the sensation". He compared it to the spots of partial sensation he has. Voluntary movement but no pain sensations.

The four spots that just had one stitch each but were "scope sites" are much the same so the whole front of my right knee feels pins and needles most of the time. Pants/jeans used to bother me, but not any more.

The scar on my neck from thyroid surgery isn't that noticeable sensation wise, but when it was first healing rough clothing/wind and cold bothered me a lot. SO did the redness. Thank goodness "neckerchiefs" were in. They saved the day. It's barely noticeable anymore, to me at least. But sometimes people will notice it close up. It's thin and fine, but "tougher" than the surrounding skin.

I just poked at my old puncture wound and it didn't hurt at all. It feels pretty much the same as the rest of my skin in that area. I was punctured by a nail in the back of my calf fourteen years ago. I didn't get stitches, but my mother cleaned it and (I assume--I don't remember) put antibiotic ointment on. The scar is very nearly the same shade as my skin (maybe a bit more purple) and slightly raised.

I have a nine-year-old scar on my knee that is slightly sensitive to touch. I basically ripped open my entire knee and filled the hole with gravel. It was cleaned and stitched, but tiny pieces of rock still popped out of my skin for the next year or so. The scar is raised and purple.

My two-year-old scars from scraping the heck out of my knuckles don't hurt at all, but I suspect this is because knuckles don't have much feeling to begin with. They're white and raised.

My experience with a not terrible, but raised pinkish scar is that it is sometimes really itchy, two years after the fact.not pain but sometimes I have to scratch.

My experience is actually kinda both. My scars in general feel kinda "dead and numb" but it depends on the kind of touch. Pokes and prods and more firm kinds of touching don't feel like much, but light touching (like brushing of fingertips over the scars) feels really sensitive sometimes bordering on discomfort.

As everyone is saying, it varies. Probably depends a lot on where the scar is on the body too. I had abdominal surgery (vertical incision) and once the incision healed, the scar has no extra sensitivity (or loss of sensitivity) whatsoever. A friend of mine had abdominal surgery (horizontal incision) and three years later still has both a numb area, and an area that's abnormally tender/sensitive to the touch, enough so that clothing waistbands etc. can sometimes be uncomfortable. But that may also have to do with what was being done inside the abdominal cavity; I don't know if that would happen with just a "flesh wound."

In the first six months or so after the surgery, the scar was a very dramatic pink color, a lot like an earthworm. After a year or so it was about the same color as normal skin and much less noticeable. Older scars I have from childhood scrapes and burns are definitely more white (on caucasian skin).

What helps the most with healing/ avoiding scar tissue (along with stretchmarks and other kinds of skin unhappiness) is topical vitamin e oil, in my experience. You don't mention your setting, but if it's not modern, something like fish oil would probably also help.

Correction: actually, I guess my scar is slightly less sensitive to touch than the surrounding skin, i. e. the sensation I feel from tapping it with a fingernail feels more like tapping through a callus. It's also somewhat puckery now due to being on a non-taut area of skin.

Another thing that can minimize scarring (and would work for a non-modern setting) is oil or oil-based salve that has herbs such as plaintain, comfrey, and calendula steeped in it. I make the latter myself, and it does an amazing job accelerating surface healing and minimizing scar tissue; also makes remaining scars more stretchy and flexible.

I've got a couple surgical scars from about 6 years ago on my ankle. I didn't take care of them beyond the basics, but they've still gone white and faded by now, though they're still slightly raised. Most of the time they're a little numb, but if I hit them just right, it sets off this fiery tingly pain all the way down to my toes. I'm guessing a nerve got damaged in that spot.

I second the person who says their scars itch - I've got a number of random scars from my job - burns, cuts, stabs etc. and seemingly at random they occasionally itch like hell. Luckily most of them have now faded to white, whereas they were red/pink for the first year or so. Obviously they are more prominent in the summer, when I go brown, but they don't really hurt or anything, just the random itchiness.

In my personal experience, scar tissue usually is numb at first. I now that because I always angst terribly about losing sensitivity and I test it like 50 times a day whenever I get surgery. So while it's still a fresh wound, it's mostly insensitive around the sides, but eventually the sensitivity returns.

Also, it really depends on the person and how they tend to scar. Some people get really thin white scars that are barely visible. Others get bulging ridgy scars. Others get red scars. It's really very different. It may also depend on where you scar and how much motion there is on the tissue during the time of healing.

So I could imagine if someone has a massive amount of scar tissue the sensitivity will be reduced as opposed to someone scarring into a fine, clean scar.

From personal experience, I have quite a few scars on my back that are highly sensitive to touch.

With my c-section, the nerves that were severed never recovered. I have no surface-feeling, really, for about an inch or two above my scar. I have deep-pressure feeling, but even on the unscarred area? Numb. Feels kinda oogy if I wear panties that roll into the scarred area, underneath the slight puff of tummy above it. My scar is very thin, reddish, and flat -- it's really more an indentation from how they stitched it.

My spouse has a large chest scar from rib surgery when he was a kid. (They took out his xyphoid process when he was about 2 because it was splitting and growing towards his heart.) He doesn't really like me messing with it -- it feels "weird," he says. Tickly-itchy. The appearance is white and raised slightly.

I have very little experience with slash scars, except on my fingers. Those are all whitish and not sensitive... at all. I do have numerous burn scars (too clumsy in the kitchen), which are all flat and dark. Loss of sensation in those scars depends on the severity of the burn. Most will fade over time (years), but raised scars and those that were infected while healing may never fade very well.

You've got lots of advice but I've got a scar a lot like your second character's - fifteen years old and from a muscular surgery so was looked after well. It's slightly sunken, white and feels smooth to the touch. It's less sensitive than the rest of my skin but apart from that I don't feel anything different with it - no twinges in weather or itchiness.

I have 3 scars similar to the second type of scar You describe. The biggest one is 6 or 7 inches long on my left side (horizontal) in between my upper ribs from a surgery I had to repair a coarcation of the aorta. then I have 2 smaller 1 inch scars right underneath the big one from drainage pipes (ewie! lol!) I had the surgery when l Was 2 Years old but even now at almost 20, it still itches and can be sensitive. Sometimes I get these sharp, searing pains when I inhale and I have to hold my breath for 5-10 seconds till they stop. My doctor said its from the internal scarring around my aorta. I'm not sure if that helps, but I hope so!

scars can feel like you have gaze on it when you touch stuff (if it is on your finger tip) and than when you touch something that is hot or cold it can feel like it is burning


Sources:
own experiences ( sawed the tip of thumb off)

but than again that happened 4 weeks ago so its very new and i didnt get stitches (there was nothing to stitch because it was a clean cut (missing tip of thumb though)) but it is somewhat raised and still red not even pink