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Puncture Wounds


Topic Overview

Causes of puncture wounds

A puncture woundClick here to see an illustration. is a forceful injury caused by a sharp, pointed object that penetrates the skin. A puncture wound is usually narrower and deeper than a cut or scrape. Many people accidentally get puncture wounds with household or work items, yard tools, or when operating machinery. Most puncture wounds are minor, and home treatment is usually all that is needed.

Sharp objects, such as nails, tacks, ice picks, knives, teeth, and needles, can all cause puncture wounds. Puncture wounds increase your risk of infection because they are hard to clean and provide a warm, moist place for bacteria to grow. The bacteria Pseudomonas are a common cause of infections when a puncture wound occurs through the sole of an athletic shoe.

Some punctures are done for health reasons. For example, a puncture may be used by a doctor to draw blood or to give fluid or medicines directly into a vein (intravenous, or IV).

Health professionals have an increased risk of needle-stick injuries. A puncture from a used needle increases the risk of infection or for transmitting a blood-borne disease, such as hepatitis or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Home treatment may be all that is needed for puncture wounds from clean needles.

What to do if you get a puncture wound?

When you have a puncture wound:

  • Determine if any part of the object that caused the wound is still in the wound, such as a splinter or lead (graphite) from a pencil. A pencil lead puncture wound is less worrisome, so it is not necessary to check blood levels for lead or worry about lead toxicity or poisoning.
  • Determine if underlying tissues, such as blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, bones, joints, or internal organs, have been injured by the object.
  • Clean the wound and remove any dirt or debris to prevent infections, both bacterial skin infections and tetanus ("lockjaw").
  • Determine whether you need a tetanus shot.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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