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Don’t be sore
What to do when wounds won’t heal

» Careful attention limits infection

» Getting dressed

» Other options

» When to call the doctor

Sores on your body can be frightening—especially when they don’t go away. Persistent, nonhealing wounds may result from a variety of reasons, such as illness, burns or pressure sores. The most typical include diabetic skin sores, pressure sores, vessel disease wounds, surgical incisions, spinal injury wounds and chemical wounds.

Careful attention limits infection

Chronic sores can become seriously infected. These openings in the skin allow in foreign pathogens, further damaging the deeper layers of skin and underlying tissue. This can limit blood flow and slow the body’s healing process. Preventing infection initially is the key to rapid and successful recovery.

Individual treatment varies depending on the type and severity of the wound. The three most important steps are to (1) remove necrotic tissue to minimize the risk of infection, (2) relieve pressure and (3) dress the wound.

Getting dressed

Doctors use a variety of dressings combined with gauze pads, nonadherent gauze and antibiotic ointments to start the healing process. Some wounds require wet-to-dry dressings to help pull out the bacteria and debris. Doctors apply gauze with saline to the wound and allow it to dry. As the dried dressing is removed, it takes attached wound debris with it.

Dressings need to be changed often, usually two to three times a day. Silver dressing, on the other hand, can be changed every two to three days, making it one of the most effective dressings. Silver dressing takes advantage of silver’s antibacterial properties. All dressings require careful monitoring to reduce complications and further infection.

Other options

It is important that you seek medical attention if you have a wound that will not heal. Most patients who seek help from a wound program find their sores are cured in a few months. However, dressings and monitoring are only part of the plan. Other common techniques include growth factors (where natural substances are applied topically to the wound to stimulate healing) and hyperbaric (high-pressure) oxygen treatment. Nutrition counseling and antibiotic treatment may also be part of the treatment. Your doctor will know what’s best for you.

When to call the doctor

A fresh wound needs immediate medical attention if:

  • the wound is jagged
  • the wound is on your face
  • the area around the puncture feels numb
  • the edges have gaped open
  • dirt in the cut won’t come out
  • the wound is tender or inflamed
  • the wound is draining a thick, creamy, grayish fluid
  • you have a temperature over l0l°F
  • red streaks appear near the wound
  • you haven’t had a tetanus shot in five years and your wound is very deep
  • blood continues to leak through your bandage, despite 10 minutes of direct, firm pressure


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