When we think of acute and chronic diseases, we normally imagine conditions such as diabetes, cancer, appendicitis, or ones that can be communicable like the flu or common cold. We would not typically categorize injuries sustained from burns as these, but the long-term effects of burns can most certainly be seen as a chronic disease.
While it may not seem so at a first glance, burn victims can suffer many complications, even if only a minor area was affected. Whether the burn was sustained in the workplace, in the home, or elsewhere, the individual can experience many long-term physical and emotional effects.
What are the complications of burn injuries?
Aside from a difficult journey to recovery from the actual burn, burn injuries can cause many secondary pathologies that one would not normally think of. Many metabolic changes can take place. For instance, hypermetabolism is an increase in the body’s metabolic system, sometimes paired with an increase in the body’s basal metabolic rate, which can lead to anorexia, disturbed breathing, and excessive sweating. Hypermetabolism can cause sustained loss of muscle mass and bone density over time. A study conducted with burn patients published in Burns and Trauma showed they had much less muscle strength over a few years.
There is also an increased risk of cancer. A study conducted over a period of five years detected a substantial increase in the cancer risk for both genders, but an increased cancer incidence for females. Females also had a higher chance of suffering breast and genital cancer. The other types of cancer that were most identified were buccal cavity, larynx, liver, respiratory tract, and esophagus. The chance for infectious diseases also increases with burn injuries at 1.75x higher than the uninjured group. Influenza, viral pneumonia, and bacterial pneumonia were just some of the respiratory infections found during the study.
Burn injury mortality rates
The more severe a burn injury is, the longer that patient will require hospitalization. The Burns and Trauma study concluded that the longer the hospitalization, the higher the mortality rates for those patients. In babies and children, those that suffered severe burns had a 1.6x higher mortality rate than those that were affected by minor burns. In those from ages 15-44, that mortality rate increased by 1.8x. In adults older than 45 years, they had a 1.4x higher mortality rate. A similar study conducted also determined that the mortality rate was much higher in those with burns. The controls in this study had a 4% as opposed to an 11% rate in burn survivors.
What are the emotional and mental effects of burn injuries?
Burn injuries can leave a dramatic impact and impression on the patient, at the time of the injury and much later. As the tissues and cells break down at the cellular level after a burn, scarring occurs. There may be some treatments, such as laser therapy and surgery, but scarring is almost impossible to completely eradicate. Scarring can lead to a disfigurement of a victim’s body parts, such as their face and hands. If the disfigurement is too visible to the public, patients can often go through mental health problems. They can develop PTSD from the accident, and the trauma from the burns only makes it worse. The Burns and Trauma study states that patients have been found to experience PTSD even up to one to four years after the accident.
Ten percent of patients were found suffering from major depression, and another 10% from anxiety. Scarring and permanent disfigurement can completely change a person’s life around. They may be self-conscious and nervous in public, even if their clothes are covering up the majority of the scar. In times of intimacy with their partner, they may feel embarrassed or ashamed. Burn injuries can lead to an increased risk of nervous system disorders, such as peripheral neuropathy, which can forever alter a person’s life as they will now find themselves on a routine of taking different medications every day.
Can burn injuries affect my mobility?
Although it may not seem so, a person who has suffered a serious burn injury can also have their mobility affected over time. A burn injury causes much harm to the musculoskeletal system. One study found that burn victims had twice the hospital admission rate and spent a longer time in the hospital. The muscle and bone conditions found in these patients were osteopathies (bone), soft tissue disorders, dorsopathies (spine), and arthropathies (joint).
There were also much higher rates of bone fractures in the study, and it was detected that muscle and bone integrity were affected for over 20 years for those patients. These patients reported an average of 17 years of joint pain and stiffness, weak hands, and difficulty walking or running.
While it may not seem that a burn injury can cause all this, it is good to keep in mind if you are a person whose burn injury was caused by a negligent party. An experienced attorney can help you fight for your right to a settlement.
How do burn injuries occur?
A person can become injured by a burn in various ways. Thermal burns occur when there is contact between the delicate skin tissue and something very hot, such as boiling water or hot flames. Radiation, such as those from the sun’s rays or X-rays, can also greatly damage skin cells. Many chemicals, like acids and bleach, can irritate the skin to the point where the skin barrier breaks. These burns can also be very dangerous in the fact that they can lead to secondary effects, like blindness, if the chemical gets too close to other parts of the body. These can happen often at laboratories and factories where strong alkalines and oxidizers are used daily. Electrical currents can also lead to a burn injury.
When a person suffers a burn because of someone else’s negligence, they’re not just seeing the loss of skin that was once there. There is so much more involved with burn injuries than just the surface. The victim’s emotional and mental health will take a huge hit, and their physical health can decline over time as well. Contact one of our experienced burn injury attorneys at Breakstone, White, & Gluck today. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule a free consultation.