When a Wound Won't Heal...Making Sense of Nonhealing Wounds

We’ve all had them—those cuts or burns that just seem to linger forever. Most of them eventually heal on their own or with a little at-home care. But there is such a thing as a “nonhealing wound.”

A nonhealing wound is defined as a wound that hasn’t healed within a month. When a cut, burn or other wound is lingering beyond that point, there’s usually an underlying cause that needs to be treated.

How can you know if your wound is actually “nonhealing” and needs specialized medical attention? Read on as we take a look.

The Causes of Nonhealing Wounds

In some cases, there’s really no clear reason that a wound won’t heal properly. But in many cases, the nonhealing wound is related to an underlying condition or issue.

If you have a wound that won’t seem to heal, it could be related to an infection caused by bacteria, poor nutrition, certain medications (including chemotherapy), poor circulation and repeated trauma to the wound.

Those with diabetes are at a particularly high risk of developing nonhealing wounds due to elevated blood sugar, which negatively impacts circulation and the immune system. Damage to the nerves due to diabetes can also make it more likely that wounds won’t be noticed until they’ve been around for a while.

The Symptoms of Nonhealing Wounds

You’re familiar with what a wound looks like—depending on the cause and type, it may be red, irritated and even slightly swollen. But a nonhealing wound will have distinctive symptoms:

  • No improvement within a 30-day period
  • Numbness in the area around the wound
  • Increased pain from the wound over time
  • A change in color
  • An odor
  • Noticeable swelling
  • A fever along with the wound
  • Discharge from the wound
  • No signs of healing, such as scabs or new tissue

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention. A doctor can examine the wound and determine if specialized treatment is necessary to help the wound heal.

How Nonhealing Wounds Are Treated

If you have a wound that just won’t seem to heal, help is available. Wound care, through programs like the Saint Francis Advanced Wound Care & Hyperbaric Oxygen Center, provides individualized treatment using advanced techniques and technologies to promote wound healing.

The wound care team will work alongside your primary care doctor to create a treatment plan for your specific needs.

Wound care treatment may include a variety of treatment methods, including wound debridement (the removal of dead or infected skin), therapy to improve circulation, compression wraps, specialty wound dressings, skin and tissue grafting, negative pressure wound therapy, and the application of topical growth factors.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also an option—this therapy enhances the body’s natural healing process by exposing a person to 100 percent oxygen while lying in a total body chamber. Wounds need oxygen to heal, and this therapy is used to speed up the process.

Your team will determine the right treatment method or combination of treatments to help achieve wound healing.

If you or a loved one are dealing with a nonhealing wound, the Saint Francis Advanced Wound Care & Hyperbaric Oxygen Center can help. Your doctor can refer you for care, or you can call 302.575.8181 to get started.

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