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You may have heard that “time heals all wounds,” but with chronic wounds, time is of the essence: Any wound that takes more than four weeks to heal requires immediate medical attention. When left untreated, chronic wounds can lead to hospitalization, disability and in severe cases, amputation.
“Chronic wounds develop from underlying conditions. For example, diabetes causes poor blood circulation. When a lower extremity does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood, it causes tissue damage that results in a wound that likely won’t heal,” said John Pelosi, DPM, Inspira Elmer Wound Care Center’s Medical Director. “The longer the wound stays open, the longer that individual is at risk of developing an infection.”
Common types of chronic wounds include:
- Arterial ulcers: Open wounds that lack sufficient nutrients causing tissue damage
- Diabetic ulcers: Ulcerations to the feet that develop due to diabetic conditions
- Infectious wounds: Infections that do not heal properly
- Ischemic wounds: Open wounds that lack sufficient blood supply
- Pressure ulcers: Tissue damage due to weight or pressure on a single area of the body
- Surgical wounds: Incisions from a surgery that do not heal properly
- Venous ulcers: Veins that cannot circulate properly and cause tissue damage
Healing Chronic Wounds
While chronic wounds develop from underlying conditions, they need to be treated on their own. If your wound is warm to the touch, oozing, painful, visibly red and swollen, or if you spike a fever, it is important to speak with your health care team. You may need medication, surgery to remove unhealthy tissue, professional wound dressing or a more aggressive treatment therapy.
“The skin repairs itself by circulating collagen, or fibers that create skin cells. Chronic wound treatment ranges from compression bandages and antibiotics to skin grafts and various therapies. We want to give your body the nutrients and help it needs to complete its regeneration process,” said Dr. Pelosi.
Thanks to advanced technology, new therapies offer the body extra support in its natural healing process. For example, hyperbaric oxygen therapy allows individuals with non-healing wounds to enter a pressurized chamber with 100 percent pure oxygen to rebuild and grow new blood vessels in the wound area and help regenerate skin cells.
“When the body lacks sufficient oxygen, it begins to shut down. In terms of non-healing wounds, a lack of oxygen prevents the wound from healing from the inside and skin from being able to regenerate and heal,” said Dr. Pelosi. “Therapies like hyperbaric oxygen therapy jumpstart the body to grow new blood suppliers and bring high-concentrations of oxygen into your wound bed so it can continue the processes it needs to repair itself.”
Open wounds may seem insignificant, but they can quickly develop into a condition that causes a lasting impact on your health and quality of life. “It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” said Dr. Pelosi.
Learn more about Inspira Health’s approach to wound care on our website.