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Abrasion (medical)
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 T14.0
ICD-9 919.0
Abrasion on the palm of a right hand, shortly after falling
Abrasions on elbow and lower arm. The elbow wound will produce a permanent scar.

In dermatology, an abrasion is a wound caused by superficial damage to the skin, no deeper than the epidermis. It is less severe than a laceration, and bleeding, if present, is minimal. Mild abrasions, also known as grazes or scrapes, do not scar or bleed, but deep abrasions may lead to the formation of scar tissue. A more traumatic abrasion that removes all layers of skin is called an avulsion.

Abrasion injuries most commonly occur when exposed skin comes into moving contact with a rough surface, causing a grinding or rubbing away of the upper layers of the epidermis.


Types of abrasions

Colloquially, abrasions caused by contact with textiles or carpeting are referred to as rug burn or carpet burn.[1] In vehicle accidents where the skin contacts the road surface, it is known as road rash.[2] Slipping on ropes or other surfaces is known as rope burn or friction burn. Despite the references to abrasions as burns, an abrasion is less serious than a burn in that a burn destroys the proteins that make up the epidermis and disrupts the function of the epidermal cells, while an abrasion simply removes the outer layers of the epidermis, which is up to 100 layers thick depending on the area of the body.[3]

A corneal abrasion is another common type of abrasion and occurs when a foreign body (such as a contact lens or a grain of sand) damages the outer layer of the eye. The cornea is similar in structure and function to the skin.[3] As in skin abrasions, corneal abrasions usually do not result in scarring.[3]


The abrasion should be cleaned and any debris removed. A topical antibiotic (such as Neosporin or bacitracin) should be applied to prevent infection and to keep the wound moist.[4] Dressing the wound is optional[4] but helps to keep the wound from drying out which interferes with healing.[5] If the abrasion is painful, a topical analgesic (such as lidocaine or benzocaine) can be applied, but for large abrasions a systemic analgesic may be necessary.[4]


The gallery below shows the healing process for an abrasion on the palm caused by sliding on concrete.


  1. ^ Example of use of "carpet burn" in news media: Brady: The Greatest Gift, One Year Later, Daily Herald, 26-12-2008
  2. ^ Example of use of "road rash" in news media: Officers injured during Toy Run event, Astrid Galvan, The Arizona Republic, 21-12-2008
  3. ^ a b c Porth, C. M. (1990). Pathophysiology: Concepts of altered health states. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company.
  4. ^ a b c Kidd, P. S., Sturt, P. A., & Fultz, J. (2000). Mosby's emergency nursing reference (2nd ed.). St. Louis: Mosby, Inc.
  5. ^ Abrasions: Merck Manual Online


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