Most people don’t get wounds often, so having one is incredibly distressing. How long does a wound take to heal? Is this a sign of infection? What is “normal” in healing, and when should you get concerned?
These are all completely rational questions when you or a loved one has a wound that seems to be healing at a snail’s pace.
Today, we’ll be covering the stages of wound healing, how long different wounds take to heal, and what can impact the healing of a wound. We’ll also discuss a few methods you can use to help a wound heal more quickly.
The phases of wound healing
Wound healing generally follows four distinct phases. These help your body rebuild itself from scratch, and can have different lengths for different types of wounds.
The one thing all the stages of a healing wound have in common is that they take time and energy. So how long does a wound take to heal, stage by stage?
The first stage is Hemostasis, or clotting. This stage usually lasts as little as 4 minutes or as long as 10. And individuals with a clotting disorder can be in this stage of healing even longer.
Next is the inflammation phase, which starts within the first 24 hours after the injury and, on average, takes one to two weeks. This is also where many people get “stuck”, causing the wound healing process to take significantly longer.
After the inflammation phase, your body begins the proliferation phase. How long does a wound take to heal through the proliferation phase? A wide range of 3 to 14 days could all be considered “normal”, depending on the size of the wound.
The final stage of wound healing is the maturation phase, which starts about 3 weeks after the initial wound occurs. This can last up to 12 months, though the tissue will be as strong as it gets at about 14 weeks.
How different wounds can heal differently
Wounds can heal differently for several reasons, starting with what kind of wound you’re dealing with.
All wounds require your body to rebuild tissue – whether that’s skin, or muscle, or organ tissue. This means your body needs significantly more protein to heal up.
Foods high in collagen can be especially helpful in healing many different kinds of wounds for this reason. Collagen has a unique amino acid profile, and collagen itself is the building block for the tissues your body needs to repair.
This is why collagen wound healing techniques such as supplements and wound dressings can be especially helpful. On average, though, how long does a wound take to heal in different situations? And what kinds of treatment can help?
Let’s take a look at different types of wounds and how long they take to heal:
The most important thing to know about burns is that they aren’t all equally severe. Different kinds of burns will need different levels of care, and if you get a third-degree burn, it’s important to seek medical care immediately.
How long does a wound take to heal when it’s a burn?
First degree burns are very mild, and take about 3 to 6 days to heal.
Second-degree burns are moderate, with blistering and swelling, but second degree burns should be healed within 3 weeks.
Third-degree burns take at least 3 weeks to heal, but can take much longer depending on the severity of the wound.
Burns are typically treated with non-stick bandages and antibiotic ointment. You can support healing burns through your diet by eating foods high in vitamins C, D, and E, as well as getting plenty of zinc, selenium, and copper.
You’ll also want to be sure to eat plenty of protein, like collagen, to provide the essential amino acids your body needs to use these vitamins.
Pressure wounds, or pressure ulcers, are caused by constant pressure on one part of the body. They’re also called “bedsores”, because they’re caused by a small part of the body staying pressed against a bed or chair without moving for an extended period of time.
Pressure wounds can develop on anyone recovering from surgery, but they’re even more common in people with diabetes. “How long does a diabetic wound take to heal?” can be an even more specialized question than “How long does a wound take to heal?”
However, treatment for pressure wounds is mostly the same, whether the patient has diabetes or not.
Remove pressure from the affected area as much as possible, take extra care when moving or changing positions, and cover with a dry dressing (for closed wounds) or a dressing and antibiotic ointment (for open wounds).
Pressure wounds are staged by severity similar to burns. How long does a wound take to heal in each stage?
Stage one pressure wounds can heal in as little as three days, stage two in up to three weeks, stage three in up to four months, and stage four in as long as two years.
Cuts aren’t categorized in the same way burns and pressure wounds are, but there are varying levels of severity. A paper cut, for instance, can heal in as little as two days. You can care for a paper cut with a simple bandage and antibiotic ointment, if needed.
Severe cuts, though, take much longer to heal. Wounds like this are expected to heal in 4-6 weeks. How long does a wound take to heal when you need stitches? If a wound hasn’t healed after 6 weeks, it is considered “chronic”, even when you have stitches.
Treatment for severe cuts may include stitches, antibiotic ointment, and dressings, including collagen dressings. You can support healing cuts through your diet by consuming plenty of protein, zinc, and vitamin C.
Surgical wounds are technically cuts, but they deserve their own section since it isn’t just your skin healing, but likely organs, as well. So how long does a wound take to heal after surgery?
Surgical wounds heal in the same timeframe as any other cut: 4-6 weeks. But that’s just the wound itself. The medical concern that you had the surgery for may take much longer to heal, or much less time.
When it comes to surgical wounds, keeping your healthcare professionals informed is especially critical. They’ll be able to address specific concerns around caring for the wound, and are prepared to quickly intervene if something impairs your healing.
How long does a wound take to heal when something interferes?
There are a number of different things that can impact your body’s ability to heal itself. You’ll need to get to the root of the problem when you’re making a plan for how to heal a wound that won’t close.
The different causes might all have the same outcome – a wound that isn’t healing – but they can have different treatment plans.
When something is impairing the healing process, there isn’t an estimated timeframe for healing anymore. You need to look at what’s causing the interference to have a guess. And when you’re dealing with wounds that aren’t healing, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional to ensure you’re getting the help you need to heal.
So how long does a wound take to heal if there’s something else going on? Let’s look at a few of the most common causes of wounds that won’t heal and what treatment can look like.
How long does a diabetic wound take to heal?
Diabetes wound healing is a topic all its own. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause wounds to heal more slowly, due to the way the condition impacts circulation and white blood cells. Slow healing is expected with diabetes, so how long does a diabetic wound take to heal, on average?
When medical assistance is sought out right away, a diabetic wound typically heals in around 12 weeks. However, this number excludes wounds that won’t heal. For some people with diabetes, wounds can heal even more slowly.
How long does a wound take to heal if you have diabetes and there’s something else impacting your healing wound? It’s impossible to say. Your unique medical situation could require many, many more weeks in recovery.
There are two important things you can do to help the situation. First, manage your blood sugar levels. And second, speak to your healthcare team to get specialized treatment so you can get back on the path to health.
How long does a wound take to heal if it's infected?
Infected wounds can be very serious, so it’s important to monitor wounds for signs of infection, such as:
- Intense pain that isn’t getting better with time
- Heat at the site of the wound
- Redness or dark streaks around the wound
If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with an infection and should see a doctor right away. You may need antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
How long does a wound take to heal once you start antibiotic treatment?
You can typically expect the antibiotic treatment to last about a week, and your wound will likely start healing again even sooner.
And as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep your wounds clean and dry to prevent infection while they’re healing. If you use a moist dressing, make sure you change it daily to discourage bacterial growth.
How long does a wound take to heal in an elderly person?
Age is one of the most common slow healing wounds causes, but it’s also different from the other causes we’ve covered in that it affects nearly everyone.
Age causes healing to slow for a few reasons. One of the most important of which is that collagen production slows significantly as we age.
Collagen is a cornerstone in each phase of the healing process. Without enough of it, your body will struggle to repair the missing tissue caused by the wound. Age can also cause circulatory and nerve problems which slow the delivery of collagen and cells to the site of the wound.
So how long does a wound take to heal as we get older? And at what age do we start to see wound healing slow?
Wounds in patients 70 or older can take up to four times as long to heal as they do in younger adults.
In patients younger than 65, healing isn’t immediately impaired, but age-related changes are clear at every stage of the wound healing process. And if something impacts even one phase of wound healing, overall healing can slow by 20%-60%.
So how long does a wound take to heal in the elderly? By and large, expect healing to take a few weeks longer, but wound healing as we age is complex and shows up differently in everyone.
One of the easiest, most effective ways to reduce or remove the impact of age on healing is ensuring you have a healthy, well-rounded diet. Nutrition is key in helping your body heal.
Support wound healing through nutrition
Good nutrition ensures your body has all the tools and materials it needs to repair itself. This means getting plenty of amino acids, especially essential amino acids, in your diet. The essential amino acids are the only nine compounds your body can’t make for itself.
How long does a wound take to heal if you don’t have good nutrition? Poor nutrition can delay healing significantly, or even prevent your body from healing at all.
One way to ensure you have enough amino acids in your diet is by supplementing with medical-grade collagen. Collagen is naturally packed full of essential and non-essential amino acids that support healing. And our medical-grade collagen, in particular, is fortified to create a full amino acid profile to naturally support healing at every stage.