Age has its benefits, like wisdom and the ability to pull rank for a larger slice of birthday cake. But it has its drawbacks as well. One of them is the simple fact that we don’t heal as quickly as we did in our youth. That makes wound care more complicated than simply applying a bandage and a bit of peroxide. The wound care team at Princeton Health Care Center has the experience and training to handle these more complex wounds.
How Wounds Heal
Your body is very complex, and when something goes wrong, its process to heal and repair is also complicated. Wound healing — actually a four-step process — is no exception.
Hemostasis is the scientific term for stopping the flow of blood. When a wound occurs, this means stopping the bleeding through natural processes like vascular constriction and clot formation.
Inflammation is a natural side-effect of wound healing, and allows platelets, phages, and growth factors to migrate to the wound site. This clears away cellular debris and helps to prevent infection, while also promoting healthy tissue regrowth.
Proliferation starts during the inflammation phase and continues after the inflammation subsides. The “proliferation” referred to here is the growth of new cells, the rebuilding of vascular tissue, collagen replenishment, and a number of other activities.
Resolution is the phase during which biological activity at the wound site returns to normal. For something minor like a paper cut, resolution comes quickly. For a deep or complex wound, resolution can take a period of years.
Why Some Wounds Don’t Heal
If any of these four steps fails to initiate or is interrupted, it stops the healing process in its tracks. That’s because each step in the process requires the step before it to work properly. Broadly speaking, there are both local and systemic factors at work. Local factors include oxygenation (required to promote hemostasis and healthy cellular activity) and infections.
Systemic complications arise from a number of factors. Age is high on the list, since our bodies heal differently as we get older, and this is especially true of adults over 60. Sex hormones (androgens) play a further role, and these also change as we age. Other impediments to healing include stress, health conditions like diabetes, and the use of medications (especially those that interfere with clotting and platelet formation).
Types of Chronic Wounds
A chronic wound is defined as any wound that has not healed for more than thirty days. Their causes vary, but can include pressure ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, surgical wounds, and even wounds caused by radiation poisoning. Left untreated, they can lead to pain, infection, recurrence, loss of function, and — in extreme cases — loss of limbs.
There are many ways to address chronic wounds. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your case and any treatment that’s been attempted up to that point, after which they will discuss your care options. These may include hyperbaric treatments, antibiotics, surgical intervention, or other advanced techniques. Our goal at Princeton Health Care Center is to return patients to full function and comfort as soon as possible.
If you have questions about your, or a loved one’s, wound care regimen, contact Princeton Health Care Center today.