Do you feel like your wound is not healing? Your body’s ability to naturally heal wounds is a superstar trait we can all be very grateful for, but unfortunately, things don’t always go to plan.
Having a wound that isn’t healing can be uncomfortable, frustrating, and potentially harmful to your health. So how long should a wound take to heal, and what are some signs and causes of a wound not healing?
In order to understand the signs of a wound not healing, it’s also important to know the normal signs of a healing wound. Once you know whether or not there is an issue, we will then dive into some slow wound healing causes you can discuss with your doctor.
What does healthy wound healing look like?
There are 4 stages of wound healing, and each stage creates the conditions for the next stage to begin. If the body is unable to complete one stage of wound healing, this could create a situation of a wound not healing.
The wound healing stages are:
Stage 1: Hemostasis
Consider hemostasis as the rapid response to the appearance of a wound. Blood needs to coagulate to stop it from continuing to spill out of the body, and this process begins with a deposit of fibrin to form a scab.
What you should see during hemostasis
A bleeding wound should start to clot and dry within just a few minutes of its occurrence. The wound is not healing while you are bleeding, and if scabbing does not show then that’s cause for concern.
Stage 2: Inflammation
Inflammation establishes an immune barrier against invading microorganisms. The immune system sends in neutrophils to destroy bacteria and damaged tissue around the wound site. This is vital to wound healing, as acute wounds that have a bacterial imbalance will not heal.
Next, macrophages are deployed to break down devitalized collagen and keep the wound site decontaminated while the new tissue growth begins to take place.
What you should see during inflammation
Redness and swelling, although sometimes uncomfortable, are clear signs that your immune system is attempting to decontaminate the wound site. You may also notice some drainage from the wound as part of the clearing process. This should only last for 2 to 5 days.
Stage 3: Proliferation
Proliferation is where collagen fibers are quickly laid down to fill in the wound site. Collagen is an important component in all types of wound healing. Synthesized by fibroblasts, collagen fibers grant integrity and strength to all tissues.
What you should see during proliferation
The proliferation process normally starts 3 days after a wound is detected. The wound should gradually decrease in size as the collagenous tissue is being formed over the wound.
The wound granulation tissue that is created during the proliferation stage is thicker, rougher, and more disorganized than normal tissue. Because of this, once the wound is filled in, it’s time to move onto the final stage of wound healing: remodeling.
Stage 4: Remodeling
In the remodeling stage your body reorganizes and aligns collagen fibers to make them smoother and stronger. Although wounds will not regain 100% of their pre-injury integrity, a remodeled wound with appropriate scarring is a sign that you’re healed and healthy.
What you should see during remodeling
If the wound is severe, remodeling can last as long as two years to be fully completed. There should be a scar in the place of the initial scab, and this scar should fade over time.
While it can take up to two years for a scar to fully remodel, the whole wound healing process should not take longer than 4 to 6 weeks. If you have an open or inflamed wound for longer than that, that is a sure sign your wound is not healing.
You may not need to wait that long to catch signs of trouble though. Let’s look at some telltale signs that something is amiss with your wound healing process.
6 signs of a wound not healing
Here are six signs to look out for that indicate a wound not healing properly:
1. Bad smells
If you’re asking yourself, “Why is my operation wound not healing?” First, try putting your nose to it. A poorly healing wound often comes with an unpleasant smell.
A strange smell can indicate dead tissue that needs to be cleared away, as well as waste products from the inflammation stage that the body hasn’t managed to get rid of effectively.
Masking a smell with perfume or cologne is not the answer here. Firstly, you’re dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause, and secondly the addition of extra chemicals to the site of the wound may upset the pH balance or other chemical balances it is trying to enforce.
This wound not healing issue may require draining from a medical health professional, or gentle washing around the area without the use of strong chemicals.
2. Prolonged swelling
As we’ve seen, swelling and/or redness in the affected area is a completely healthy part of wound healing, but it should not be permanent.
If swelling for a medium-sized wound has not subsided after a week following surgery, that could be a sign that a bacterial infection has taken hold and overwhelmed the immune system. In this case, the body can’t reduce swelling because the wound site is not safe and clear.
You may need to take medicine or antibiotics to cure an infection before your wound can heal. Once the infection is taken care of, swelling should decrease and wound healing can get back on track.
Infection is one of the main slow wound healing causes. With infection being such a high risk after a wound, this is one of the most important signs to pay attention to.
3. Thick discharge
Thick discharge isn’t the kind of sign you’re likely to miss. Yellow, white, or green-colored discharge can be an open and shut case that your wound is infected and requires specific treatment right away.
A common way to treat this is called purulent drainage, and patients need to be very careful while washing these harmful fluids away with warm water and soap.
As it is with respiratory illnesses, a fever is a sign that your body is fighting either a bacterial or viral threat.
The invading microorganism isn’t directly causing the body to heat up, the body reacts to the presence of a virus or bacteria by warming up the body’s core temperature in an attempt to destabilize the microorganism.
An unhelpful byproduct of raising body temperature is that wound healing processes are also taken out of their prime operating temperature windows, and this can slow wound healing or even cause a complete pause to recovery altogether.
A fever of over 100 degrees fahrenheit is always cause for action. It is very possible that your wound has become infected and, in this instance, a wound will not heal until your infection is effectively dealt with.
5. Skin that feels hot
Is your wound not healing as quickly as expected? Try gently checking your skin temperature around the area. Is it hot? This is an issue more localized than a full-body fever, but caused by similar conditions.
The body has released white blood cells to fight bacteria and this process generates heat and an overall increased temperature of the surrounding skin.
Skin that is slightly warm to the touch can be a healthy sign that the body has a potential infection under control. But sustained heat can be a sign that an aggressive infection is attacking the body and needs to be dealt with before a wound can heal.
6. Increasing pain levels
As a wound heals, the associated pain levels should decrease over time. Proliferation slowly makes your wound smaller and less dangerous, so associated pain should reduce in parallel with the regeneration of collagenous soft tissue.
Prolonged or increasing pain is a sign that your wound is not healing.
Nervous system pathways that send pain receptors to your brain at the moment of injury shouldn’t need to be activated again. That is, unless there is an underlying problem with the wound healing process, such as infection or your wound becoming unable to progress safely out of the inflammation phase.
Especially with internal wounds (as you’re not able to check them visually) pain could be a sign that you need to book an appointment with your medical professional. You may need some form of internal scan to assess the wound effectively and choose the best course of action.
So why is my wound not healing?
There are a number of slow healing wound causes to be aware of if you’re wondering: “Why is my wound not healing?” In addition to infection, improper nutrition, age, and underlying medical conditions also have an effect on your body’s ability to heal.
Wounds, especially those open to the atmosphere, come with a threat of infection. The skin that once acted as a barrier to invading microorganisms has now been compromised.
If the body does not consider the wound area safe from an immunological point of view, wound healing may slow or stop entirely.
So if you’re asking, “Why is my wound not healing?”, the answer may not directly be to do with the wound itself. It could be that infection is slowing or delaying the recovery.
Chronic conditions play a part in wound healing too, as they can restrict the body’s ability to generate energy or deploy white blood cells effectively. Diabetes wound healing and wound healing from other chronic conditions is a common challenge facing an aging American population.
If you are living with chronic disease(s) such as coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, or forms of cancer, you should anticipate that they may slow wound healing.
Patients with chronic diseases should speak to their health specialist to walk them through a correct course of care that is suitable to their specific needs if their wound is not healing.
The healing body benefits from a caloric surplus, where it has more calories to create energy for wound healing. A wound not healing could be a sign that you need to consider a wound healing diet more seriously.
More than any other form of nutrition, the body needs protein to assist wound healing. The amino acids in protein are synthesized into collagen by your body, and implemented to recover the tissue separation at the wound site.
An undernourished patient may experience a slow healing wound due to lack of nutritional resources. In particular, the proliferation and remodeling phases of wound healing can be affected as the demand for collagen is higher.
Sadly, as we get older the body doesn’t naturally create as much collagen as it used to. Collagen production begins to slow in our mid-twenties, and decreases over time. This is why we have more aches and pains as we get older, and bounce back from injury more slowly.
Because your body has less collagen stores when you are older, it becomes increasingly important to supplement your natural collagen with proper nutrition for wound healing.
How to safely speed wound healing
If you want to know what to do if a wound won’t heal, the first step is to seek help from a doctor. They will be able to determine the exact cause of your slow wound healing. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully to ensure your wound heals properly.
There are a wide variety of wound care solutions that health practitioners can employ to help you. In addition, there are ways you can help aid wound healing through nutrition, and it’s certainly worth asking your doctor about.
It’s important to supply your body with the right nourishment that it needs to pass through each stage of wound healing.
Wound healing supplements are a tried and tested way to potentially speed up your healing process, with liquid protein for wound healing becoming a firm favorite. As collagen protein is the main biological player in the proliferation process, taking collagen protein can help to ease you through your healing process.
The trusted nutrition provided in collagen products like ProT Gold has been proven safe to use in medical nutrition and is trusted by thousands of medical facilities across the United States. Enlisting the support of high-quality collagen protein daily may make all the difference in speeding up your wound healing.