Abrasion (Scrape)

An abrasion is an injury where your skin rubs off. It’s also known as a scrape. You might get an abrasion after tripping on an uneven sidewalk or falling off of your bicycle. Abrasions cause pain, skin discoloration and light bleeding. You can treat small abrasions at home by cleaning and covering your wound.


Three types of abrasions with different patterns after an injury where your skin rubs off.
An abrasion, or scrape, is an injury that occurs when your skin rubs off. There are three types of abrasion patterns.

What are abrasions?

An abrasion is a scrape on your skin. This is a break in your skin that happens when your skin rubs off. It may bleed slightly and hurt. An abrasion often happens when something hits or drags against your skin (friction). Abrasions are usually accidental injuries. They only affect the outermost layers of your skin.

An abrasion is similar to using a piece of sandpaper to remove paint from an object. The rough surface of the sandpaper rubbing against the object removes layers of paint just as an abrasion removes some of your skin.

What are the types of abrasions?

There are three types of abrasions:

  • Linear: A linear abrasion is also known as a scratch. It’s damage to your skin in a line-like pattern. It’s the result of a sharp, pointed object like a thorn making contact with your skin.
  • Grazed: A grazed abrasion or brushed abrasion is skin damage caused by your skin making contact with or dragging across a rough surface. This type of abrasion can cover a large area of your skin. An example would be a skinned knee.
  • Patterned: A patterned abrasion is skin damage caused by an object forcefully making direct contact with your skin and rubbing against it. The wound on your skin matches the size and shape of the object that your skin touched. An example is the nail markings caused by a cat scratch. The feline’s claws reflect the size and shape of wounds they make on your skin.

Is an abrasion serious?

Most of the time, an abrasion isn’t a serious injury. An abrasion usually only affects the top layer of your skin (epidermis) and doesn’t extend into deeper layers. While abrasions are common, they can lead to infections. Infection is a serious consequence of a wound.

What is the difference between an abrasion and a laceration?

An abrasion and a laceration are types of wounds. A wound is an injury to your skin and body tissues. An abrasion or scrape is a wound where an area of your skin rubs off. None of your skin is missing during a laceration. Instead, the wound breaks apart and separates the skin. Another word for a laceration is a cut.

How common is an abrasion?

Abrasions are very common. Everyone experiences minor abrasions during their lifetime. An abrasion is the most common childhood injury.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of an abrasion?

Symptoms of an abrasion include:

  • Mild pain (stinging or burning).
  • Light bleeding.
  • Skin discoloration.
  • Fluid (pink to clear) leaking from the wound.

What does an abrasion look like?

An abrasion is the result of your skin rubbing off. This may cause your injury to look:

  • Lighter than your natural skin tone.
  • Dark around the borders, often red from blood.
  • Spotty or speckled.
  • Shiny.
  • Wet.

Your skin may peel away from the abrasion area or the rubbed-off skin could clump together in an area of your injury. It’ll naturally fall off as your skin heals.

Where will I have symptoms of an abrasion?

The most common areas where you’ll have symptoms of abrasions are on bony areas of your body, like your knees or elbows. You can get an abrasion anywhere on your skin. Abrasions are also possible in your eye (corneal abrasion) and in your mouth (dental abrasion).

What causes an abrasion?

Friction causes abrasions. Friction is the movement of a hard, uneven or rough surface, object or material against your skin. Common causes of abrasions include:

  • Falling down onto a rocky surface or gravel.
  • Sliding into home plate (baseball).
  • Road rash (falling off of a moving vehicle like a bicycle or a motorcycle onto the pavement).
  • Carpet burn (rubbing your skin on a rough rug or carpeted surface).


What are the complications of an abrasion?

The most common complication of an abrasion is an infection. Symptoms of an infection include:

  • Pain.
  • Swelling.
  • Pus or foul-smelling yellow or cloudy fluid oozing from the wound.
  • The wound won’t heal.
  • Fever.

Since abrasions are the result of something rubbing against your skin, debris, dirt and contaminants can get into your wound. If not properly cleaned, bacteria from these contaminants can cause an infection.

If you notice signs of an infection, visit a healthcare provider. Infections can be serious if left untreated.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is an abrasion diagnosed?

Most abrasions don’t need a diagnosis from a healthcare provider since they’re minor injuries that you can treat at home. In the event of an accident or serious injury, you may have a large abrasion that needs medical treatment. A healthcare provider will diagnose an abrasion by visually examining your wound. They’ll specifically note the following during the examination:

  • Type of abrasion.
  • Size and shape.
  • Location on your body.
  • Depth of the wound within your skin.
  • If there’s debris or other material present in your wound.

Your healthcare provider will take your complete medical history during a physical exam. They’ll also ask you questions about your symptoms, like:

  • When did the injury happen?
  • Where did it happen?
  • What caused the injury?
  • Does it hurt?

These questions can help your healthcare provider offer treatment that’s best for your specific symptoms.


Management and Treatment

How is an abrasion treated?

Treatment for an abrasion is proper wound care. You can do this at home by:

  • Washing the wound gently with soap and water.
  • Using tweezers to remove any visible debris like pebbles. Use caution before removing any debris. If your wound contains a lot of debris like multiple or large pieces of gravel or glass, visit the emergency room (ER) and don’t try to remove the debris on your own.
  • Patting the wound dry after washing it. Use a clean washcloth to do this.
  • Applying a topical antibiotic ointment to the abrasion to prevent infection.
  • Covering your wound with a bandage or wound dressing. Small abrasions, like a linear abrasion less than 2 inches, may not need a bandage due to the size.
  • Cleaning and covering the wound daily until it heals. Use a new bandage each time.

If you have a large abrasion or experience other symptoms or injuries, visit the emergency room immediately or contact 911 or local emergency services. You may need treatment with stitches for larger wounds.

A healthcare provider may offer a tetanus shot or antibiotics for abrasions caused by animals. This is a preventive form of treatment to reduce your risk of developing an infection. If you received an animal bite or scratch, visit a healthcare provider within 24 hours of the event.

Try to avoid picking at your abrasion as it heals. It can be tempting to rip off dead skin or scratch your wound. These actions can irritate the wound and delay your healing time. When you pick at your injury, you also put yourself at risk of getting bacteria into the wound and causing an infection.


Can abrasions be prevented?

Abrasions are usually accidental injuries. You can reduce your risk of getting an abrasion by:

  • Being aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re around animals, sharp surfaces or rough objects.
  • Wearing protective gear, clothing or equipment when playing sports, participating in activities or working.
  • Avoiding hazards like sharp objects or uneven walking surfaces.
  • Listening to your body to prevent falls or accidents. If you’re tired, rest and don’t push yourself to participate in activities that can cause harm.
  • Removing tripping hazards near popular walking areas.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have an abrasion?

Abrasions are usually minor injuries that heal quickly. Small abrasions (less than 2 inches) may heal without scarring, but larger abrasions can leave a scar or mark on your skin after your wound heals. Abrasions aren’t usually severe, but you can get an infection in a minor abrasion like a scrape if you don’t take care of your wound properly. A healthcare provider can treat larger abrasions and offer treatment to prevent infections.

How long does it take for an abrasion to heal?

Most abrasions heal within a week if they’re small (less than 2 inches). It could take up to two weeks or more for larger abrasions to heal.

Living With

When should I see a healthcare provider if I have an abrasion?

Visit a healthcare provider if you have an abrasion that:

  • Shows signs of infection like pain, pus or swelling. Visit the emergency room if you have a fever.
  • Happens after interacting with an animal (animal bite or scrape).
  • Has debris, dirt, glass, rocks or other contaminants in it.
  • Occurs with other injuries like a laceration or covers a large surface area of your body.
  • Isn’t healing after one week.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • What type of abrasion do I have?
  • How do I take care of my abrasion at home?
  • Do I need to cover my abrasion daily?
  • What type of antibiotic ointment do you recommend?
  • How do I prevent scarring?
  • Am I at a high risk of developing an infection?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Abrasions are very common injuries. Children are more at risk of developing abrasions because they’re still learning about how to safely navigate their environment. It can hurt to skin your knee after tripping on the sidewalk or falling off of a bicycle. You can treat minor abrasions at home. If you experience an abrasion that affects a large area of your body, visit the emergency room, your primary care provider or express care to receive treatment. They can also offer treatment to prevent infections, which are common complications of even minor abrasions.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 06/16/2023.

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