Wounds & How They Heal

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Find out what you need to know about care and treatment for your wound at Cottage’s Ridley-Tree Center for Wound Management. To talk with our wound care coordinator call (805) 696-7920.  

Wounds come from a variety of different medical conditions, and they don't heal for many different reasons. Typically, a wound that does not respond to normal medical care within 30 days is considered a problem or chronic wound – affecting an estimated 6.5 million people in the United States each year.

Many conditions may benefit from wound care:

  • diabetic wounds of the lower extremities
  • crash injuries
  • wounds that have not healed after several weeks
  • gangrene
  • post-radiation tissue injury
  • pressure ulcers
  • diabetes-related foot and ankle ulcers
  • trauma wounds
  • arterial insufficiency ulcers
  • compromised grafts and flaps
  • wounds caused by poor circulation
  • necrotizing soft tissue infections

What is an ulcer?

Ulcers are wounds that develop on the skin, which are seen most frequently in diabetics or others who have low potential to heal from injury. Ulcers can be brought about by many conditions, and although they have many causes, they are marked by:

  • loss of integrity of the area
  • secondary infection of the site by bacteria, fungus or virus
  • generalized weakness of the patient
  • delayed healing

Pressure ulcers

A pressure ulcer, also known as pressure sore, bedsore, and decubitus ulcer, is an area of tissue that is damaged when soft tissue is pressed between a bony area and another surface for an extended period of time. Pressure ulcers happen most commonly over areas such as the hip, tailbone, buttock, or heel in people with limited mobility due to illness or injury. The amount of pressure placed on the area, how long it is pressed, and the overall health of the patient all have an effect on the amount of skin damage. Once the injury has occurred, it can take weeks or months to heal. Ulcer severity is often classified using National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) guidelines with stages from 1 (superficial) through 4 (most severe).

Diabetic foot ulcers

Diabetes affects many body systems, including the nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and immune system. These factors can make a diabetic person more likely to get a foot infection or wound. Once a wound starts, it can be difficult to heal. Diabetics may acquire small cuts or sores on their feet or lower extremities that develop into serious wounds. About 20 percent of these wounds become so severe that they result in amputation. Vascular disorders may result in chronic venous stasis ulcers, and conditions that cause immobility may result in severe, hard-to heal pressure ulcers.

Venous leg wounds

Venous ulcers are caused by vein damage. Blood collects in the legs, causing swelling and weeping wounds. The skin can become discolored and look stained. Arterial disease can also cause wounds on the lower parts of the legs, and are hard to heal because the flow of blood to the wound is reduced.

Healing and Treatment

For anyone who has developed an ulcer, medical attention should be sought immediately so that a course of care and treatment may be initiated. The Wound Care Center offers advanced therapies and treatments for problem wounds including:

  • debridement: removal of dead tissue
  • infection control: use of antiseptics and antimicrobials, along with frequent changing of dressings
  • nutritional support: administering vitamins and minerals -- including vitamins A and C and zinc -- in appropriate doses