We all develop wounds at some point in our lives.
For most of us, these injuries heal over time. But for some people, even minor wounds won't heal and require specialized care.
Non-healing wounds are a growing problem in Kentucky and throughout the country, largely due to the aging population and increasing rates of obesity, which can lead to diabetes and immobility.
In fact, diabetes is a leading cause of non-healing wounds. Elevated blood sugar levels and poor circulation restrict blood flow to wounds, making it difficult for them to heal. For those with diabetes, even a small injury can lead to an ulcer, especially in the feet.
Other patients who are prone to non-healing wounds include those with vascular and arterial conditions such as venous disease, a condition in which the legs have difficulty pumping blood back to the heart. These conditions are more common among the older population, but can occur in young adults as well.
Those with limited mobility, including the morbidly obese, are also at increased risk of developing non-healing wounds in the form of pressure ulcers, commonly known as bedsores. These wounds occur when prolonged pressure reduces blood flow to the skin.
Regardless of the cause, many patients wait weeks or even months to seek treatment for non-healing wounds. These patients often suffer reduced mobility and a lower quality of life, and if left untreated, wounds can become infected, develop a foul odor and even lead to amputation.
There are many treatments available, but it is important for patients who are prone to chronic wounds to monitor any injuries closely and seek treatment quickly.
An increasing number of primary care providers now routinely examine diabetics and other at-risk patients for non-healing wounds, and may refer patients for treatment at wound care centers, where they may be cared for by a team of experts who specialize in the management of chronic wounds.
While this is the most common referral method, many patients are not aware that self-referral is also an option. Those who are experiencing a wound that has not healed over a period of weeks can call wound care centers directly for an evaluation, and their primary care provider will be kept informed of their treatment plan.
During Wound Care Awareness Week, it is important for patients to understand that they are not alone in suffering from chronic wounds and that there is help available.
Understanding risk factors, monitoring injuries closely and seeking treatment early can help prevent the serious consequences of non-healing wounds.