Cuts - Topic Overview
Cuts are open wounds through the skin. Normally the skin is under
slight, constant tension as it covers the body. A cut is a forceful injury to
the skin. Many people accidentally cut themselves with household or work items,
yard tools, or when operating machinery. Children often are cut during play and
sports activities, or from falls while riding wheeled toys, such as bikes,
scooters, or skateboards. Most cuts are minor and home treatment is usually all
that is needed.
Cuts can be caused by:
- Blunt objects that tear or crush the skin (lacerations ). These cuts are more common over bony
areas, such as a finger, hand, knee, or foot, but they can occur anywhere on
the body. Blunt object injuries usually cause more swelling and tissue damage
and leave jagged edges, so problems with healing may
- Sharp-edged pointed objects pressing into and slicing the skin
tissue (incised wounds). Sharp object injuries are more likely to cut deeper
and damage underlying tissue.
- Sharp-edged objects piercing the skin
tissue (stab or
puncture wounds ).
- A combination of blunt and sharp objects that tear, crush, and slice the skin tissue.
Some types of cuts are more serious and need medical
evaluation and treatment. These more serious cuts include:
- Long or deep cuts.
- Cuts that open
with movement of the body area, such as a cut over a joint. A cut over a joint
may take a long time to heal because of the movement of the wound
- Cuts that may scar and affect the appearance or function of
a body area. A cut on an eyelid or lip which doesn't heal well may interfere
with function or leave a noticeable scar.
- Cuts that remove all of
the layers of the skin (avulsion injuries), such as slicing off
the tip of a finger. An avulsion injury may take a long time to
- Cuts from an animal or human bite. Infection is more likely
with a bite injury.
- Cuts that have damage to underlying tissues.
Injuries to nerves, tendons, or joints are more common with cuts on the hands
or feet. Slight swelling, bruising, and tenderness around a cut,
bite, scrape, or puncture wound is normal. Swelling or
bruising that begins within 30 minutes of the injury often means there is a
large amount of bleeding or that damage to deeper tissues is present.
- Cuts over a possible broken bone. Bacteria can get into a
cut over a broken bone and infect the bone.
- Cuts caused by a
crushing injury. With this type of injury, the cut may have occurred when the
skin split open from the force of the injury. The force of the injury may also
damage underlying tissues and blood vessels. Crush injuries have a high risk of
- Cuts with a known or suspected object, such as glass or
wood, in the wound.
Injury to the skin may also break small blood vessels under the skin
and cause more swelling and bruising than you would expect.