The human body is incredible. Just moments after you sustain an injury, it is already hard at work to heal the trauma. But even knowing that, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the good signs of a healing wound - and the bad signs of poor wound healing.
The body’s natural healing process is a complex and delicate system. A system that can often be thrown off balance. Diet, activity levels, smoking, stress, and underlying health conditions can all affect how your body heals wounds.
So at what point should you be concerned that wound healing isn’t going according to plan?
Let’s take a look at how long wound healing should take, some signs of a healing wound in each of the four healing stages, and some signs your body might need a little assistance with wound healing.
Then, we’ll give you our top tips to speed wound healing - tips that can benefit people with healthy and unhealthy wounds alike.
How long does it take a wound to heal?
How long a wound takes to heal will differ from person to person and wound to wound. For example, you heal faster as a child than you do as a senior citizen, because your body has a much higher collagen production when you are younger, which is needed for skin regeneration.
And, as expected, a shallow scrape should heal much faster than a deep puncture wound.
That being said, you can expect all wounds to follow the same general healing process and display the same signs of a healing wound. You can also expect most wounds to heal in about a month’s time.
If you have a wound that hasn’t healed after four weeks, it’s considered a chronic wound. If you have a chronic wound, it’s important to contact your doctor to discover if there are any underlying health conditions or nutritional deficiencies that could be affecting your healing.
For example, diabetes wound healing can take much longer than healthy wound healing, and some diabetic wounds might not heal at all without medical intervention.
Finally, all wounds, even simple ones, can turn chronic in the right (or rather, wrong) conditions.
To make sure your wound healing process is working properly, it’s important to understand the four stages of wound healing, and the signs of a healing wound you will see along the way.
The four stages of wound healing
The four stages of wound healing are the hemostasis stage, the inflammatory stage, the proliferation stage, and the maturation/remodeling stage.
- In the hemostasis stage, your body is focused on stopping the bleeding. This phase is usually quite swift, ranging from seconds to minutes.
- The inflammatory stage usually sets in on the first or second day and lasts around two to five days. The purpose of this stage is to bring nutrients to the wound site and clear out any infection and debris.
- The third stage of healing is the proliferation stage, where the main focus is on filling the wound quickly using collagen fibers to create new tissue. This phase can last up to a few weeks.
- The final stage of healing is the remodeling stage, where the quick collagen patch your body made in the proliferation stage is smoothed and organized into a scar that slowly heals. Your scars can take up to two years to heal completely, but by the time your wound has reached the remodeling stage, it has about 80% of regular tissue strength already.
Now that you have a general idea of the stages wound healing goes through, let’s discuss the good signs of a healing wound so you can assess what stage of healing your body is in. This will also help you determine if your natural healing process needs any sort of assistance.
8 Healthy signs of a healing wound
Here are some of the healthy signs of a healing wound so you can understand when your body is on (or off) track in the healing process.
1. Your wound stops bleeding
One of the absolute first signs of a healing wound is blood clotting. In fact, your body should start the blood clotting process within seconds of an injury. Within a few minutes, the blood in the wound should begin to congeal and become gel-like.
The exception to this is with burns and pressure ulcers. These wounds generally do not bleed at all.
If your wound continues to bleed after an injury, you may have issues with blood clotting, and need to see advice from a medical professional.
2. Your wound scabs over
One of the next signs of a healing wound is scabbing. Scabbing is when the clotted blood dries into a protective crust over the wound. This scab will keep the wounded area safe while your body works to clean the wound and generate new tissue underneath.
Scabs may form very quickly, or take a few days to form, and will naturally fall off after a few days or weeks. No matter how much you may want to, you should not pick at a scab, even if it itches!
3. Your wound is slightly red or swollen
You might be alarmed if your wound begins to swell and get red after injury. In some cases, swelling and redness can be signs of infection, but they can also be healthy signs of a healing wound.
You should expect your wound to exhibit some signs of swelling and redness during the inflammatory stage of the healing process. This means your body has sent histamines to the area, and is working on cleaning out any debris or bacteria.
Some slight swelling allows extra blood, oxygen, and nutrients into the area to aid in wound healing. That being said, this stage shouldn’t last longer than five days. If it does, it’s a sign that your wound might need some additional help to heal.
4. Your wound weeps
One of the other signs of a healing wound during the inflammatory stage is weeping. If you notice some pus or clear fluid coming from your wound during the first five days, don’t be too alarmed. This is another normal part of the healing process where your body is getting rid of debris and cleaning out your wound.
Wound weeping normally lasts between 2 to 5 days. If the discharge begins to smell, or lasts for a longer period of time, it may be a sign of infection.
5. Your wound itches
While annoying, itching is actually a healthy sign of a healing wound.
Why do healing wounds itch? While the verdict is still out on this, it could be due to a number of factors, such as:
- Your nerves reacting to the wound/skin irritation
- Your body reacting to the histamines during the inflammatory stage
- Your body reacting to collagen synthesis during the proliferation stage
6. Your wound begins to grow new tissue
Once the swelling and inflammation die down, it’s time for the proliferation stage to begin. During this phase, your body will send collagen fibrils to the wound site to start building new tissue and repair broken blood vessels.
What does a healing wound look like during this phase? Well, as new tissue is built underneath, the scab on top of your wound will slowly begin to fall off naturally. The tissue underneath may be more red or pink than the surrounding skin tissue, and is often more thick and rough than regular skin to protect the wound site.
7. Your wound gets smaller
One of the signs of a healing wound in the proliferation stage is when the wound decreases in size.
During proliferation, special cells called myofibroblasts pull in the edges of the wound and cause it to contract. This creates a smaller surface area to protect while healing continues. At this point, your wound is nearly healed!
8. Your wound scars over
The last sign of a healing wound is scarring. This stage of wound healing is called the remodeling stage because your body does a mini demolition and remodeling of the collagen fibrils that filled in your wound during the proliferation stage.
What does a healing wound look like during the remodeling stage?
The skin will begin to smooth out as your body reorganizes and aligns the collagen fibrils. The scar tissue will also slowly fade in color. Scars can take up to two years to fully heal, and in some cases, they may be permanent.
Since the last phase of wound healing can last so long, you may be wondering how to know if you have a chronic wound - especially since we mentioned that any wound lasting longer than a month can be considered chronic.
Generally speaking, a wound is considered “healed” once it moves into the remodeling stage, which should happen at the 2 to 4 week mark.
In some cases, people end up with a wound not healing. These wounds are usually stuck in the inflammatory stage, or oscillating between proliferation and inflammation. On that note, let’s discuss some signs of poor wound healing.
Signs of poor wound healing
If you see some of these signs of poor wound healing, contact your doctor as soon as possible so you can find a solution.
If you notice unpleasant smells coming from your wound, it could be a sign of dead or infected tissue.
Another sign of infection is white, yellow, or green discharge coming from the wound - especially if the discharge is thick. While some drainage is a normal part of the healing process, it shouldn’t persist after the first week, and shouldn’t reoccur later.
The initial swelling of a wound usually gets better within the first few days. If your wound is swollen beyond the first week, or becomes more swollen at a later date, this could be a sign of infection or a wound that is stuck in the inflammation stage.
Fever is not normal in wound healing, and indicates a viral or bacterial infection.
If you have a fever over 100℉ that lasts more than four hours, there could be serious complications. As such, you should contact a medical health professional immediately.
Pain is an obvious symptom of injury, and the deeper the wound, the more pain you will likely feel. In fact, it’s often a normal sign of a healing wound.
That being said, pain should slowly get better over time, especially after the first week of healing. If your pain worsens, or never goes away, it’s a sign that you should reach out to your doctor for assistance.
If any of these signs of poor wound healing look familiar to you, it’s important to seek out wound care solutions to help your body’s natural healing process.
How to help your wound heal
Now that you know the signs of a healthy, healing wound (and some signs to watch out for), let's talk about how you can make the healing process go even faster.
You can ask your doctor about different techniques for faster wound healing. Bring up questions such as:
- Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered?
- What can I eat to make my wound heal faster?
- What supplements can I take for wound healing?
In general, wounds should be healed in a moist environment. Keeping your wound clean and covered will help keep the wound free of bacteria, and may speed up the healing process.
You can also work with your doctor to find a special wound healing diet. To arm your body for proper wound healing, it’s important to get a lot of:
Zinc: This mineral may help your body process protein and develop new skin tissue.
- Vitamins: Vitamins A and C in particular help to support collagen synthesis and the development of new tissue. They also may help trigger an early and effective healing response.
- Carbohydrates: Carbs are not the enemy when it comes to wound healing. Your body needs energy in order to heal and carbohydrates help provide that energy. You should try to stay away from refined carbs, and get your dietary needs from healthier whole carbohydrates.
- Protein: Protein is the main component necessary for tissue regeneration, and if you don’t get enough of it, your wound might get stuck in the inflammatory stage. If you aren’t getting enough protein from your diet alone, you might want to try supplemental liquid protein for wound healing.
Liquid or powder protein supplements come in many varieties, but one of the best proteins for wound healing is hydrolyzed collagen protein.
Try collagen protein for wound healing
Because your body uses collagen for new tissue growth during wound healing, collagen protein is a fabulous supplement for assisting in the healing process.
To find the best collagen for wound healing, look for one that is labeled “hydrolyzed” or “collagen peptides.” These both mean the same thing - the collagen supplement has undergone the chemical process of hydrolysis, and has been broken down into smaller pieces that are easier for your body to digest and use in the process of wound healing.
There are many medical benefits of collagen peptide protein, and collagen is used for wound healing by many doctors around the world. Adding a high-quality collagen supplement to your daily routine may help you boost your natural collagen levels and may promote faster healing at the wound site.
ProT Gold collagen protein is trusted for use in wound healing in nearly 4,000 medical facilities in the United States. Ask your doctor how you can use ProT Gold collagen products from the comfort of home to assist in your own wound healing journey.