Have a Wound That Just Won't Heal? When and Where to Turn for HelpPublished: June 27, 2022
Whatever it was that led to your cut, gash, sore or burn, chances are likely that it wasn't fun. But a wound that continues to bleed, ooze, itch or ache can be even more distressing. Don't brush it off!
No matter how minor a wound may seem, specialized care like that offered by Methodist’s wound care experts is crucial if it's not healing on its own.
There are three main stages of wound healing. Think of them as the three R's.
Inflammation, which is your body's first response to injury, often causes redness. As your wound swells, it's being pumped full of cells and antibodies - your body's attempt at fending off infection.
When redness and inflammation subside, wound tissue begins to rebuild itself. Damaged cells are replaced with new, healthy ones. Ideally, the recovering area will become a light red or pink color, which signifies adequate blood flow.
When a wound has completely closed, the still somewhat fragile area begins to strengthen and sometimes scar. Cellular activity slows as function is restored.
Keeping a wound clean and moist is vital to proper healing. Using mild soap and water prior to applying antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly and covering with a bandage or dressing is often sufficient in providing a wound the necessary environment to repair itself.
With any wound, it's important to keep watch for signs of infection, which may include:
- Yellow, green or cloudy drainage
- Increased pain
- A hot sensation surrounding the wound
- Red streaking near the affected area
Risk Factors for Problem Wounds
Sometimes wounds can become problematic. Several factors can delay a wound's healing process, and some people – often those with other health issues – are more at risk than others for chronic wounds. Certain risk factors may include:
- Chronic venous disease
- Arterial disease
- Circulation problems
- Tobacco and alcohol use
- Use of certain medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, anticoagulants and immunosuppressants
- Radiation therapy
If your wound doesn't seem to be following the three R's of healing, it may be time to seek help.
It's important to note: The body often begins turning off the healing process for wounds that remain unhealed for 30 to 60 days. After about a month, the chemicals and cells usually found in a properly healing wound begin to decrease in the affected area, making healing all the more difficult.
Wound Care at Methodist
Our wound care specialists see dozens of patients each week with many different types of wounds. Some have relatively new wounds, while other have been battling their wounds for weeks, months and sometimes years with no success. It can be overwhelming and painful for patients dealing with these types of injuries. We treat many types of wounds including:
- Chronic wounds
- Pressure sores and ulcers
- Diabetic ulcers
- Surgical incisions and slow or non-healing surgical wounds
- Wounds from traumatic injury
- Wounds from vascular disorders
- Arterial insufficiency ulcers
Our expert staff can also assist patients with edema management and medical toenail management.
No matter what type of wound or condition we’re treating, our goal is to improve the patient’s quality of life. We want them to heal quickly and completely.
Every wound and situation is different. That’s why we use personalized, evidenced-based processes to provide specialized treatment and care. Patients are seen on a regular outpatient basis, generally each week, and our multidisciplinary approach includes collaboration with primary care providers and, when necessary, a variety of specialists.
A patient’s individualized treatment plan may include:
- Debridement (the removal of damaged tissues)
- Diabetic education
- Laboratory evaluation
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)
- Infectious disease management
- Nuclear medicine
- Nutritional management
- Pain management
- Physical therapy
- Vascular evaluation
More about Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
One of the most widely used types of therapy for chronic wounds is hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). It involves the inhalation and application of pure oxygen, often while lying down in a small tube-like chamber.
By breathing in and exposing wounds to nothing but pressurized oxygen, more oxygen molecules can be pumped into the blood and then delivered to the areas where blood flow may not be sufficient. Over time, this kind of therapy stimulates the growth of new blood vessels that then replace damaged ones.
While most wounds respond to about 30 hyperbaric treatments, others may require upwards of 60. Not all wounds qualify for this type of therapy, but those that do almost always show significant improvement.
Common conditions that benefit from this therapy include:
- Slow-healing severe diabetic wounds
- Tissue damaged due to radiation therapy
- Certain infections of the skin or bone
- Problem skin grafts
- Crush injuries and acute ischemic conditions
Seeking Wound Care Treatment
Sometimes wounds require more than oxygen. They may require the assistance of plastic surgeons, vascular surgeons, skin substitutes or donated tissue.
While most people are referred to a wound care clinic by a primary care provider, surgeon or emergency department staff member, referrals aren't always needed. If you're suffering from a persistent wound, talk to your health care provider or call a trusted wound care center.