6 skin biopsy wound care tips from dermatologists
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. As Skin Cancer Awareness Month continues, it’s important to check your skin regularly, and if you notice a spot on your skin that is different from others or that changes, itches, or bleeds, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.
If you notice anything suspicious on your skin, your dermatologist will examine it and may perform a skin biopsy. For many skin diseases and conditions — including skin cancer and some rashes — a skin biopsy is the best way to confirm the diagnosis. A skin biopsy can be done during an office visit with your dermatologist using local anesthesia to numb the area. During a skin biopsy, your dermatologist removes a small amount of skin, which will be looked at under a microscope to make a diagnosis.
Your dermatologist will treat the small wound from the skin biopsy during your visit,” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rajiv Nijhawan, MD, FAAD. “Continuing to care for your wound once you get home is important because it will help it heal, reduce scarring, and decrease chances of infection.”
To care for a wound from a skin biopsy, Dr. Nijhawan recommends the following six tips:
- Practice proper wound care. Wash your hands before touching your wound. To care for your wound, gently wash the biopsy area with mild soap and water. Rinse thoroughly and gently pat dry with a clean washcloth. To keep the wound moist and help it heal faster, apply petroleum jelly from a squeeze tube to the wound. Then, cover the wound with an adhesive bandage or sterile gauze and paper tape. Repeat these steps daily for as long as your dermatologist recommends.
- Do not use topical antibiotics unless instructed by your dermatologist. Topical antibiotics can cause allergic reactions. As long as you clean your wound daily, topical antibiotics are not necessary to treat a skin biopsy. Use petroleum jelly instead.
- Treat itch. Your skin can itch as it heals. To relieve this itch, keep the wound moist by applying a thick layer of petroleum jelly to the wound. Itching can also be a sign you've developed an allergic reaction or irritated your skin. Cover the wound with a non-stick pad and paper tape instead of an adhesive bandage. If you're using a topical antibiotic, start using petroleum jelly instead.
- Treat bleeding. Apply firm and steady pressure with a sterile gauze pad continuously for 20 minutes if your wound starts bleeding. Call your dermatologist’s office if your wound is still bleeding after 20 minutes.
- Treat pain. The area of your biopsy may feel sore. If you’re in pain, take acetaminophen. Another option is to place an ice pack over the bandage to relieve swelling.
- Protect your wound from the sun to reduce scarring. Once your wound has healed, protect it from the sun by seeking shade, covering it with sun-protective clothing, and applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. For more effective sun protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.
If you have any signs of infection such as worsening pain, increased swelling, warmth, or fever, contact your dermatologist,” said Dr. Nijhawan. “If you have any questions about a skin condition, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.”