Imagine getting a flat tire on your way to work.
It’s a huge nuisance and an unwanted expense, so instead of pulling over and calling a roadside service, you keep driving on that flat tire. You force your car down miles of highway and through dozens of traffic lights and stop signs, all while your tire makes awful banging and thumping sounds.
If you’re lucky enough to finally make it to a repair shop, your tire won’t just be flat anymore; it’ll be completely shredded, along with your rim and fender.
If you’re not so lucky, you’ll swerve off the road or hit another car when your flat tire sends your vehicle out of control. Either way, all of the damage you experience could have been prevented with standard tire maintenance.
Taking care of the wounds on your body is no different! If you choose to ignore symptoms of an injury or make decisions that exacerbate your injury, you run the risk of severe consequences like gangrene, hematoma, amputation, or even death.
By taking steps to prevent and treat wounds that won’t heal, you can safeguard your body against dangerous chronic wounds and possibly save your own life.
Why Won’t Your Wounds Heal?
There’s no one single reason that you’ve sustained wounds or sores that won’t heal. For most patients, non-healing wounds occur as a result of many factors combined.
High Blood Sugar or Diabetes
Diabetes is the root cause of many wounds that won’t heal because it directly damages the body’s natural healing process.
If you have healthy, balanced blood sugar, any wound on your body triggers a natural response of blood flow, clotting, and scabbing. This process protects your underlying tissues from bacteria and fights infection. Your nearby blood vessels also jump into action to deliver fresh oxygen and nutrients to the wound, which gives powerful white blood cells the opportunity to support rapid wound healing.
This natural response becomes far more difficult if you have diabetes or uncontrolled high blood sugar. Extremely high levels of sugar in the blood impair the function of white blood cells, which in turn stunts the body’s ability to ward off bacteria. As a result, diabetics are more prone to sudden infections and wounds that won’t heal.
Diabetes also poses a threat to rapid wound healing because it triggers a type of nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy. Since excessively high blood sugar levels interfere with the ability of your nerves to send signals, diabetic neuropathy causes tingling and numbness in the hands and feet.
If you are a diabetic with neuropathy, you could step on a nail and not even realize it! Unless you evaluate your feet daily for signs of injury and infection, a wound could fester for days or weeks before you find it. This is the unfortunate case with many diabetics, who don’t notice their wounds until infection has already spread down into the bone. In severe cases, amputation is the only viable treatment option.
Poor circulation, often a direct cause of diabetes, further compounds the problem of non-healing wounds. Red blood cells can only deliver nutrients to wounds with the help of proper blood circulation. When diabetes or another health condition slows circulation, wounds become vulnerable to infection and deficient in the nutrients needed to heal.
In fact, a wound deprived of adequate supplies of blood will likely take at least twice as long to heal — if it can heal at all.
Poor eating habits also play a role in slow wound healing because repairing tissue is a calorie-intensive process. If you aren’t eating enough protein, your body can’t sustain the physiological functions needed to heal your wound. It’s recommended to eat double the amount of protein as your wound heals in order to support healthy kidney function and internal healing.
Improper Wound Care
In addition to the root causes of chronic wounds, including diabetes and poor circulation, improper wound care can quickly exacerbate high-risk wounds and interrupt the healing process.
Lack of Offloading
We all know that injuries can’t endure too much pressure, which is exactly why patients of foot, ankle, and leg injuries use wheelchairs and crutches during the recovery process. Eliminating pressure from a wound is known as offloading, and a lack of offloading can interfere with proper wound healing.
This same principle applies to less obvious wounds like foot ulcers. Imagine if a 250-pound patient worked on his feet all day with an existing diabetic foot ulcer. All day long, his full body weight would crush the cells attempting to regenerate and heal his wound. If a specific offloading system isn’t implemented for patients at risk of placing excessive pressure on their wounds, healing may never occur.
Lack of Compression
Compression reduces swelling by increasing pressure in the tissue under the skin. As pressure increases, any excessive fluid build-up in the legs is forced back into the blood vessels. This simple component of wound care offers many essential benefits:
- Prevents the veins from expanding with fluids
- Supports better blood flow and circulation
- Maximizes the flow of oxygen to wound
- Accelerates wound healing
- All of this means that neglecting or overlooking compression as a core component of wound care treatment can lead to the formation of chronic non-healing wounds.
Poor Wound Dressing
Dressing your wounds may sound simple, but it’s a critical factor in wound healing. Every type of wound requires its own unique type of dressing to prevent the spread of infection, address fluid drainage, and support tissue repair. If you don’t dress your wound properly, it could damage the surrounding skin.
Failure to Control Infection
Open wounds are highly susceptible to infection, which presents itself with symptoms like redness, warmth, pain, and swelling. The more time bacteria have to multiply, the more difficult it becomes for a wound to heal properly. Infection must be directly addressed with medication before any wound has a chance of long-term recovery.
How to Treat a Wound That Won’t Heal
Treating wounds that won’t heal requires more than just a prescription for an antibiotic. You need to implement a holistic approach that blends every factor that influences your body’s ability to heal.
Any wound is vulnerable to infection, but non-healing wounds are especially prone to the damage caused by infection. It’s key to follow prescribed antibiotic treatments and avoid all sources of potential infection, including public swimming pools. Following proper wound-dressing protocol will also protect your wound from bacteria and reduce your risk of infection.
Get Your Blood Sugar Under Control
Given the proven correlation between diabetes and wounds that won’t heal, it’s essential that you keep your blood sugar under control. Working with your doctor to treat your diabetes with diet, exercise, and medication adjustments can have a huge influence on the efficiency of your body’s natural wound-healing process and immune system.
If you can optimize the activity of red blood cells, white blood cells, and your overall circulatory system, you’ll begin to improve your body’s wound-healing response and protect yourself from non-healing diabetic wounds.
Use Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is the ultimate treatment for diabetic wounds. This safe and natural alternative therapy uses the power of pressurized oxygen to stimulate your body’s innate healing process. As a result, it can kickstart tissue repair in wounds that previously failed to heal.
During an HBOT treatment, you lie comfortably in a special hyperbaric chamber and simply inhale concentrated oxygen. As this oxygen flows through your body, it dissolves directly into all of your body’s fluids and permeates areas where circulation is reduced or blocked. Inhaling the concentrated flow of oxygen provided through regular HBOT treatments makes it possible to overcome oxygen deficiencies and stimulate a more effective healing process.
By stimulating and supporting the body’s natural healing capabilities, HBOT helps your non-healing wounds move into the recovery process. White blood cells deliver the oxygen needed to effectively kill bacteria, reduce swelling, and allow the rapid reproduction of new blood vessels. HBOT even enables cells to build new connective tissue and improve organ function.
The Bottom Line: Find Holistic Treatment for Wounds That Won’t Heal
A non-healing wound isn’t like an ear infection that disappears with a single round of antibiotics. It’s a serious and complex condition that requires dedicated holistic treatment to heal. That is why it’s so important to find an experienced wound care specialist who can help you address your non-healing wounds.
The team at R3 Wound Care and Hyperbarics offers state-of-the-art HBOT treatments designed to address your unique medical needs and help you enjoy your life without the hindrance and dangers of wounds that won’t heal.
Better yet, the team at R3 Wound Care doesn’t simply offer HBOT and send you home — we specialize in creating customized, holistic treatment plans that address the root causes of your non-healing wound and help you protect your body from injuries in the future. Using the healing power of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and evidence-based wound-healing techniques, we can help you experience the healing your body needs.
Dr. Hina Rizvi specializes in advanced wound management and hyperbaric medicine. She is a board-certified Wound Specialist by the American Board of Wound Management and a member of the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine.