Most wounds do not require more than a simple cleaning with a mild antiseptic like hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol and a bandage. Healing will occur quickly for these types of simple wounds, usually not taking longer than a week to close and heal significantly. Other wounds require much more attention, taking longer to heal and necessitating the help of a doctor who specializes in wound care.
Wound care specialists are healthcare professionals who have received specialized training to treat and care for every kind of wound, whether they are severe or chronic in nature. Our wound care experts understand the skin’s natural healing capabilities and how to manipulate them to accelerate the healing process. The ways in which we treat these wounds depends on the type of wound and the circumstances concerning the injury.
What Makes a Wound Specialist Different?
Although you might have been to an emergency room for a simple wound or laceration, you might not have heard of this term specifically. Wound specialists can include nurses, doctors and physical therapists. The main thing is that they have been specifically trained in the treatment and care of wounds that will not heal properly.
This training might have been through a specific course of study, such as with a nurse practitioner (NP), registered nurse (RN) or an emergency room nurse. Or it might have simply been one of the many classes that a person studying to be a medical doctor (MD) would have to take. All of our practicing staff members have been trained in the field of wound care sometime during their medical training. When a team of healthcare professionals with varying degrees of medical knowledge work together to heal patients, the results are always exceptional.
Wound care specialists like us spend three years on average practicing wound care after completing the general course of study. After practicing for this time, a written exam is given for certification in the specialty of caring for simple wounds as well as troublesome wounds that won’t heal properly. After this certification, continued education and re-certification is occasionally required to update knowledge to current standards.
Kinds of Non-Healing Wounds
If you’re not sure if your wound qualifies as a severe or chronic wound, the fact that you’re wondering is a good enough indication that you need wound healing treatments. If a bruise or a cut has not started healing within two weeks or has not healed thoroughly in about six weeks, there is a problem. The extended functioning of the immune system and the body’s natural healing capabilities should have taken care of the problem within this time-frame.
This can mean one or several things. There is either a problem with the immune system, a lack of adequate nutrition or some kind of illness preventing healing. It can also be a combination of two or more of these issues.
What Is an Acute Wound?
Acute wounds are categorized by us as wounds that occurred quickly, rather than over an extended period of time. These kinds of wounds are more predictable when it comes to their healing. They will heal over a calculable period of time. What is important in treatment is staving off infection by keeping the wound itself and the surrounding areas sanitized and covered.
The three main stages of healing for acute wounds include the inflammatory, proliferative and remodeling phases. The inflammatory phase is when the body recognizes the wound and the blood vessels contract. Swelling, pain and heat are natural symptoms of inflammation. A blood clot is formed during this phase. The proliferative phase of wound healing involves the contracting of the wound as new tissue is formed using collagen and other tissue-building proteins.
The remodeling phase is the third and final phase of wound healing and it’s also the longest. This is the process when essentially dead tissue is replaced with functional tissue. It can take up to two years for this phase to finalize, and we are there along the way to help care for it until it does. Regular checkups by our staff are necessary during this phase to keep new trauma from occurring in that area. We encourage our patients to still remain careful during the tissue remodeling stage. Any scrapes or blows to the wound can reopen it or otherwise set back the healing process once again.
When these three stages of wound healing do not complete themselves properly, this is when our staff’s expertise is most useful. A non-healing wound can present many health problems when not looked after carefully. This is especially true for people at risk. These include people who smoke, have diabetes, struggle with obesity and have illnesses or diseases that alter the functioning of their immune systems.
It’s also the severity of an acute wound that can necessitate treatment by a wound specialist. Deep wounds that damage the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and other body parts need far more attention and medical expertise. Within this acute category of wounds, there are three main types.
Surgical wounds are intentionally caused by surgeons during an operating procedure. These need to be kept free from infection-causing bacteria until they heal. If they have been contaminated with these kinds of bacteria, they must then be decontaminated before infection can occur. If infection has already occurred, fighting the infection then becomes the primary objective.
Traumatic wounds are categorized by the force that causes the laceration or deep bruising. These are severe scrapes or scratches to the skin, deep puncture wounds , tears or incisions (cuts) and burns.
Treatment options for these kinds of wounds can vary depending on the type and severity of them. Generally, there are five different issues that need to be addressed when treating acute wounds:
In cases of cuts, controlling and halting the bleeding by applying pressure of the right type is imperative if further healing is to occur.
For deep cuts, tears and some burns, irrigating the wound is critical. A sterile saline solution can be used to wash the wound and remove any contaminants that can’t be seen by the naked eye.
Sometimes, it might be necessary to remove dead tissue from the wound. This is called debridement. Dead tissue gets in the way of healing. It can actually increase the chances of infection as it decays by attracting bacteria.
Every kind of wound must be dressed appropriately. Special attention must be paid to burns, since tissue needs cooler, circulating air to recover. Along with bandages, dressing can include skin adhesives, staples, stitches and sterile strips. Sometimes, wounds need to be cleaned and left uncovered to let them air for awhile depending on the severity and location.
Antibiotics and similar medications are used to fight off infection in wounds that are vulnerable. When wounds have been contaminated with debris, they are at high risk of becoming infected. We can administer medicine for swelling and pain and inflammation, such as a tetanus shot, during this stage of treatment.
If your injury qualifies as an acute wound, the best thing you can do is visit a clinic such as ours. While emergency rooms are great for the initial treatment, if your wound is more serious it might need more attention from specially trained medical professionals.
Surgical non-healing wounds do not healing properly because of infection most times. Not only is a surgical procedure risky enough, but many problems can be created when infection occurs. Surgical wound infections are very obvious; they tend to be swollen, off-color and most often have pus draining from them. There might also be symptoms such as fever, weakness and nausea.
Surgical site infections are the most risky of wound infections due to their close proximity to vital organs and their effects on the blood. Any kind surgery involving penetration beyond the stomach lining alone can be catastrophic if an infection occurs afterwards. In fact, operations involving the intestine are some of the most risky because of the naturally high presence of bacteria in this bodily region.
Patients with poor nutritional diets are obviously at a higher risk of infection after surgery, especially if it’s any type of bowel surgery. This is why prophylactic antibiotics are often given before high-risk operations. These keep the bacteria count very low during the procedure. These are very beneficial for surgeries which last a long time as well as bowel surgeries.
What is a Chronic Wound?
Generally, chronic wounds are wounds that simply won’t heal properly without certain procedures or treatments to help them along. These are different from the kinds of acute wounds previously described, in that that they are often a result of an illness or the side-effects of a treatment or medication given for an original illness.
Bedsores and pressure ulcers are caused when a person recovering from an illness at home or at a hospital develops bruises on parts of their bodies that are constantly under weight pressure. The heels, hips, ankles and tailbone are usually the areas concerned. Although it might be hard for you to imagine if you have never be bedridden, bedsores and pressure ulcers can linger on forever without healing and cause other long-term discomforts.
Chronic venous insufficiency is a type of wound that occurs when the venous wall or the valves of the veins in the legs don’t function properly. This causes the blood to stagnate because it’s not able to make its way back to the heart and back in a timely manner. It causes painful bruising in the legs and thighs area and lying in bed for prolonged periods of time can make it worse. Skin on the legs can turn into a strange color and also thicken.
Swollen blood vessels or varicose veins are also common with chronic venous insufficiency. Sometimes just wearing the right compression bandages or investing in a pair of compression stockings can help conditions like these. Medical grade compression stockings we suggest can be dramatically more healing than a cheap pair you get from a pharmacy. These can be used as a form of therapy for chronic venous insufficiency.
Pilonidal cysts are particularly hard to heal because of their location and nature. These develop due to constant pressure on the behind area, and obesity and a sedentary job are often causes of it. It starts with an embedded or stiff hair in that area. The constant pressure causes a cyst to form around this hair as the hair follicle is continually irritated and becomes inflamed.
A puss-filled sac develops when it becomes infected. Tenderness in the area increases and sometimes incision surgery is required to remove the cyst. Healing after surgery is often not easy due to the location of the surgical wound, making continued wound treatment a necessity. If the surgical site is infected, this means more complications down the line. Pilonidal cysts are noncancerous and are not life threatening in any way. It’s the constant symptoms caused by a wound that won’t heal properly that makes it so frustrating.
You might have a wound condition that is different than all of these, and there are many more. The first step in treating our patients is the consultation. Our physicians need to know your medical history in order to arrange for the appropriate treatments. This means providing us with your medical history by answering some simple questions on a form.
We need to know about all of your current or past illnesses that necessitated a hospital stay or were particularly serious. Some pain medications and blood thinning medications can interfere with some of our treatments. Overall, we need to know your medical history so that no treatment or medication we prescribe can harm you or interfere with the healing of your wound or wounds. Not every treatment works for everybody with the same issue because we all have individual health needs. Let us help with your unique wound care needs. Visit Shaheen Vascular in Mountain View, CA to learn more. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!