Wound Care 101 Series, Part 3: Chronic Wounds
Wound Care 101 Series, Part 3: Chronic Wounds
Injuries are a part of life. For this reason, most people don't worry when they receive an injury with a minor, acute wound because they expect it to heal within about seven days. However, on some occasions, acute wounds don't follow the usual healing process and become chronic wounds. This condition could result from severe trauma or health-related problems. But regardless of the cause, all chronic wounds originate from acute injuries that fail to heal and persist longer than the average time beyond the initial treatment.
Although estimations vary, most medical literature defines the range of chronic wounds as four weeks to three months. You can avoid chronic wounds' serious complications by learning everything about these disorders, especially the type of care they require.
What is a chronic wound?
As previously stated, a chronic wound is a non-healing condition that about 1 to 2 percent of people in developed countries will experience at some point in their lives. The likelihood of a person developing a chronic wound increases with age. Chronic wounds can cause patients chronic pain, function loss, mobility issues, stress, depression, and even death. Also, chronic wound patients may endure extended hospitalization, financial duress, and other problems. On a national level, the United States healthcare system spends more than $25 billion per year treating chronic wound treatment.
What causes chronic wounds?
Typically, there is no single factor of wound-healing impairment. Instead, there are usually multiple factors involved. This statement is true because the human body has overlapping mechanisms preventing a single cause from interfering with wound healing. The most common factors are infection, ischemia, metabolic conditions, radiation, and immunosuppression.
In addition, chronic wounds exhibit similar characteristics. They are:
- Elevated inflammation markers
- High proteases levels
- Receding cellular proliferation
- Minimal growth factor activity
What are the different types of chronic wounds?
Although all wounds begin as acute, some injuries are more prone to become chronic. They include ulcers, pressure sores, bedsores, surgical wounds, and ischemic wounds.
The most common types of chronic wounds are ulcers, including diabetic leg ulcers, venous ulcers, and diabetic foot ulcers. Therefore, you should pay close attention to them. If any warning signs occur, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Diabetic foot ulcers occur from a loss of sensation in a patient's lower extremities and tissue deterioration. Since they lose feeling in the area, many diabetic patients don't notice their foot ulcers until they get infected or worse. Diabetic foot ulcers could result in the amputation of the foot or leg.
What products to care for chronic wounds?
Products for wound dressing play an essential role in caring for your wound and they are instrumental in healing, skin grafting, or wound closure. However, each wound has its own characteristics and requirements. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of wound dressings available. Among the assortment of dressings are:
Wound care treatment often includes antibiotics to ward off infection. Since infections can lead to sepsis, antibiotics can be a lifesaver. You can combine it with other effective infection-fighting products like alcohol swabs and cotton tip wood applicators for debriding the wound. Also, for long-term patients, pressure redistribution mattresses, chair cushions, and bedsore creams can help prevent pressure sores or relieve the pain.
How to treat a chronic wound?
Promoting the healing process in a chronic wound requires killing infections, removing necrotic tissue, keeping the area moist, and permeating the wound area. These objectives are possible with debridement, careful wound dressing, negative pressure wound therapy.
The objectives of wound debridement are removing pathogens, infected tissue, devitalized tissue, and contaminants. To accomplish this task, medical professionals use autolytic debridement, wound irrigation, enzymatic debridement, sharp debridement, and maggot debridement.
Although it is painful, sharp debridement is best for ridding the wounds of useless tissue. The best way to perform this type of debridement is when you are under anesthesia in an operating room. On the other hand, wound irrigation is an excellent way for anyone to remove necrotic matter from the wound. Therefore, you should irrigate your wound regularly.
The most essential job a wound dressing performs is maintaining the moisture level around the wound. Since wound fluid contains healthy growth factors, metalloproteases, and fibroblast growth factors, it is critical in wound healing. As a result, proper wound dressing ensures the wound fluid can perform its healing function.
What is negative pressure wound therapy?
Negative pressure therapy improves blood flow to the wound by sucking fluid from the injury. Using a thin tube to connect an airtight dressing to a pump can create the vacuuming force needed for this type of therapy.
What happens during the final healing stage?
Once the chronic wound treatment has taken effect, your wound will leave the proliferation stage and into the remodeling stage. It will begin to shrink in size and develop connective tissue. As you continue treatment on your wound, you encourage the production of growth factors and collagen increases. The remodeling stage can last a long time before the last of the scarring tissues disappears.
Having a chronic wound is never in anyone's plans. But understanding your chronic wound's properties and providing adequate care can help it overcome stagnation and re-enter the healing process. Since complications can be very serious, notify your doctor when you notice anything unusual about your chronic wound.
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