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Disfigurement: Causes and Conditions

UPDATED: February 5, 2020

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Disfigurement literally means to impair beauty, and medical disfigurement is something that makes people appear abnormal. The damage or abnormality can be in the soft tissue, skin, ligaments, or muscles, or in the bone. Since studies show that other people react negatively to disfigurement, the condition can have serious psychological effect on the sufferer.

Common causes

Disfigurement can result from a congenital abnormality, an accident, or disease. Some forms of congenital disfigurement include:

  • Abnormally shaped skull
  • Abnormally shaped face
  • Vascular malformations
  • Skin lesions
  • Birth marks
  • Cleft lip
  • Abnormal palate
  • facial clefting (rare condition of facial abnormality)
  • Craniosynostosis (early fusing of some cranial sutures, resulting in an abnormal skull shape)
  • Abnormal limbs

Accidents causing disfigurement include:

  • Burns
  • Explosion injuries
  • Cuts
  • Crushing
  • Amputation
  • Plastic surgery or other physician errors
  • Other surgery errors (i.e., lasik surgery, staph infections, implants, etc.)
  • Violence
  • Dog bites

Medical conditions that can cause disfigurement include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetic foot ulcers
  • Skin disease
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome (skin condition usually caused by a drug reaction)
  • Staph infection
  • Small pox
  • Severe acne


Treatment for disfigurement includes the use of reconstructive surgery, prosthesis, and skin grafting. Reconstructive surgery may involve rebuilding bones, filling in depressions, and inserting prosthesis. Reconstruction is often done with material such as bone and tissue from other parts of the body. If more material is needed for reconstruction than the body can provide, artificial devices are sometimes used. Prosthesis is an artificial structure or material used to replace body parts. The most well known are artificial limbs, knees, and hips, but prosthesis are also used to replace part of the face or jaw.

Skin grafts are often used on burn victims, but may also be used in the case of extreme skin conditions like Stevens-Johnson syndrome. In that procedure skin is taken from other parts of the body and reattached over the area where skin has been lost. Without the protective barrier of the skin, serious infection can occur, so it’s important to replace lost skin. Sometimes, like in cases of full-body burns, there isn’t enough healthy skin available for grafting. In those cases a new technology of artificial skin is sometimes used. Artificial skin doesn’t have blood vessels or pigmentation, so it is used sparingly, but it can encourage the growth of blood vessels and hair follicles and aid healing.

Skin grafting can leave scars, and these are sometimes treated by shaving off the scars and resurfacing the skin.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries which have caused disfigurement through no fault of your own, contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away. If you would like a free case evaluation, simply fill out our case evaluation form.

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