By Marian Bosarge
Springtime brings warmer weather — along with lots of outdoor recreation and lawn care “honey-do” lists. These activities increase the risk of injury, and some people are more susceptible to acquiring wounds that heal slowly — and sometimes not at all. I have been a nurse for 29 years, working in various capacities within the health care system. As a wound-healing nurse, I have come to understand the importance of managing a wound properly because not doing so can lead to serious infections — which can damage a patient’s overall health.
Some individuals consider a chronic wound, one that persists or reoccurs, a way of life. They don’t realize the severity of their condition, or that alternatives exist like specialized clinics and trained professionals who can help them by applying advanced wound care.
WHO MAY NEED ADVANCED WOUND CARE?
Those who are at the greatest risk for wounds that don’t heal in a reasonable amount of time without some type of medical intervention are diabetics. This is typically due to the lack of sensation and poor circulation in their lower extremities. For example, diabetics may step on an object that breaks the skin on the bottom of the foot, and they may not feel it or notice the injury for days, weeks or, in some extreme cases, months. By the time they do, the infection may have compromised healthy tissue or made its way into the bone. Our goal is to manage the wound before something as extreme as an amputation is the only option.
Other individuals who may require special wound treatment are breast cancer patients who have undergone radiation. The radiation may have caused the skin to become fragile and left it very vulnerable. Something as common as clothes or a bra strap repeatedly rubbing against the skin can cause an open wound. Others at risk are those who have worked in a service industry, and their job required standing for long periods. In some cases, over time, the blood flow to the lower body decreases. Even a small scratch can cause ulcers that break through the skin. This is one of the most common wounds we treat, and it is important to catch these early so the sore does not spread, infecting more of the skin’s surface.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR?
Any wound that does not heal in a reasonable amount of time is a reason to go to a wound care center. Seek advanced treatment if you experience one or more of these symptoms: the area is inflamed, and the edges of the wound are red or enlarged; there is a mild increase in temperature of the skin or tissues surrounding the wound; you experience a discharge or odor from the wound; the wound becomes larger, or there are areas of redness extending past the immediate, surrounding area.
WHY VISIT A WOUND HEALING CENTER?
Our center has a team of nurses and doctors with specialized training in wound care that use customized approaches to, first, heal the wound and, ultimately, aid in the overall health of the patient. This may mean helping patients manage medications and provide continued education about lifestyle changes as part of their treatment plan. Wounds are challenging because they can extremely limit one’s ability to function. For me, it has been rewarding to see our team help our patients get back to doing even the smallest tasks like walking or driving. There are numerous, specialized techniques available that include the latest technological advancements, but minimally, applying appropriate products to the wound, administering the right medications and wrapping the infected area correctly with relevant, specific materials will not only speed up healing, but ultimately can save a life.
Marian Bosarge is director of The Wound Healing Center at Garden Park Medical Center. To make an appointment, call (228) 575-8000. Referrals are not required.