Injuries can be minor or severe

Injuries can be minor or severe. Minor injuries can often be managed with basic first aid techniques, while major injuries may require medical intervention or evaluation in an emergency setting. In some cases, a seemingly minor injury may in fact be a major injury requiring more urgent medical attention. Your doctor will also determine if an underlying medical condition was responsible. For example, a bruise that came from a fall caused by an elderly person fainted while attempting to stand – all because of poor blood circulation.

Many injuries can be prevented through use of safety devices, such as infant car seats, helmets, goggles, seatbelts, and child-resistant containers. Risk of injuries can be minimized by following commonsense safety precautions, such as avoiding contact with very hot surfaces and using caution during outdoor activities like hiking or boating. Diagnosis and treatment of injury has improved over time, so that once fatal injuries are now much more likely to be survivable. Even so, significant injuries can have long-lasting complications that can require ongoing care. In the United States, accidental injuries are the leading cause of death in those between ages one and 44 years (Source: CDC).

Treatment of injury depends upon the type and severity. In the event of a severe injury, calling 911 and use of basic life support measures can save a life. It is also important to prevent any further injury, which may involve stabilization of the spine, splinting injuries, and reducing ongoing blood loss as much as possible.

Serious injury can lead to permanent disability and may be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms such as heavy bleeding, visible deformity, broken bones, large burns, injury to the head with confusion or loss of consciousness, severe pain, rapid or absent heartbeat, weak pulse, blood in vomit or stool, difficulty breathing, pale or blue lips, chest pain or pressure, seizure, change in level of consciousness or mental status, injury to back or neck, or if you have any other reason to be concerned that the injury might be life threatening.

What are the symptoms of injury?

Injury symptoms vary depending on the type and severity of the injury itself. Injuries range from minor cuts, bruises and scrapes to large, open wounds, severe burns, and blunt force resulting in unconsciousness.

Common symptoms of injury

Injury symptoms include:

Abrasions (scrapes)

Bleeding or uncontrolled or heavy bleeding, hemorrhage

Bone deformity or other type of deformity

Burns, which may redden skin, cause blistering, or have a leathery white appearance

Joint swelling

Lacerations (cuts)


Reduced mobility (range of motion of the joint)

Tissue swelling with or without discoloration

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, injury can be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:

Abnormal pupil size or nonreactivity to light

Bleeding or abdominal trauma while pregnant

Bluish coloration of the lips or fingernails

Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure, palpitations

Paralysis or inability to move a body part

Respiratory or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, wheezing, not breathing, choking

Severe pain

Trauma, such as bone deformity, burns, eye injuries, and other injuries such as significant injuries to the head, neck or back

Uncontrolled or heavy bleeding, hemorrhage

Vomiting blood, major rectal bleeding, or bloody stool

Weak or absent pulse

What causes injury?

Anything that can damage the body can cause an injury. Injuries can be accidental or intentional, as in the case of acts of violence, and can be caused by blunt or sharp objects, impact at high speed, falls, animal or insect bites, fire or extreme heat, and exposure to chemicals and toxins. You can prevent or reduce the risk of many injuries by following basic safety precautions.

Causes of injury

The numerous causes of injury include:

Acts of violence by others

Bicycle or motor vehicle accidents

Bite or sting injuries

Burns (thermal, chemical or electrical)


Falls, impacts

Overuse and repetitive motion injuries

Poisonings and chemical exposures

Sports or athletic injuries

What are the risk factors for injury?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing injury. Not all people with risk factors will get injury. Risk factors for injury include:

Age (injuries are a common cause of death in those 44 and younger, and older people are at greater risk of sustaining injuries from falling)

Aggressive or violent behavior

Alcohol and illicit drug use

Bone or joint disorders

Certain medications that depress the central nervous system or reduce blood pressure

Chronic illnesses

Decreased sensation

Distraction, inattention

Dementia and other conditions that affect mental function

Failure to use automotive seatbelts

Gait disturbances

Hearing problems

Poor judgment

Poor vision

Reduced mobility

Refusal to wear recommended protective equipment and headgear


Reducing your risk of injury

You may be able to lower your risk of injury by:

Engaging in regular physical activity to enhance general good health

Installing handrails and grab bars

Obeying speed limits and using crosswalks

Optimizing lighting in and around your home

Putting children in car seats and booster seats

Reducing clutter and other tripping hazards in your home or office

Using nonslip mats or strips in the bathtub and shower

Wearing a helmet when riding bicycles, scooters or motorcycles

Wearing a seatbelt when driving

Wearing appropriate safety equipment during sports or other potentially risky activities

Wearing safety equipment, such as goggles, aprons and gloves, when working with hazardous substances or in dangerous areas

How is injury treated?

Treatment of injury depends upon its type and severity. Some injuries can be treated with basic first aid techniques such as wound cleansing, application of antibiotic ointments or liquids, wound dressings, rest, application of ice, compression, and elevation. More severe injuries may require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other resuscitation procedures, stitches, or surgery.

Common injury treatments

Common treatments for injury include:

Antibiotic ointments or liquids to reduce the risk of infection

Pain medications to reduce discomfort

Rehabilitative therapy to improve strength and function

Resuscitation to maintain circulation, airway, ventilation, and blood volume

R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation), particularly for sprains, strains, pulled muscles, and other soft tissue injuries

Splinting, casting, setting or relocating broken bones and joint dislocations

Stabilization of the neck and back

Stitches to close surface layers of the skin

Surgery to remove foreign bodies, stop bleeding, and repair or remove damaged tissues and organs

Transfusion to replace lost blood

Use of topical cortisone, antihistamines, or epinephrine for injuries that may be associated with allergies, such as bug bites and bee stings

Wound cleansing or irrigation to remove foreign particles

Wound dressings to protect wounds

What are the potential complications of injury?

Complications of untreated or poorly managed injury can be serious, even life threatening in some cases. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your doctor design specifically for you. Complications of injury include:


Adverse effects of treatment


Decreased range of motion



Loss of bladder or bowel control

Loss of cognitive function

Loss of sensation or abnormal sensations

Loss of vision

Paralysis or inability to move a body part

Physical disability