Wound healing is affected by more than just topical medicine and a bandage. Lifestyle factors, such as fitness and diet, can directly impact the recovery time needed. Older and overweight individuals will find cardiovascular strength and skin elasticity has decreased. Even the type of wound and how the wound is bandaged will affect the healing process. Six main factors can affect wound healing.
Factor #1: Age
There is truth in saying the younger an individual is, the quicker the patient bounces back. As patients age, skin loses thickness, collagen, and elasticity. Thickness makes the skin more resilient to scrapes and cuts. Collagen is directly tied to cell development and regeneration. Elasticity is what helps the skin bounce back to the natural shape. Less elasticity means increased scarring and recovery time. The body’s inflammatory response slows down with age. When adequate blood flow cannot reach the injured area, the wound becomes malnourished and the healing process slows to a crawl.
Factor #2: Weight
Increased weight is typically accompanied by decreased physical activity and hearth health. When cardiovascular strength declines, the body’s organs and extremities do not get enough oxygen. The result is slower overall functioning and decreased tissue oxygenation. Wounds require oxygen for proper healing and any decrease will compromise recovery.
Factor #3: Diet
A well-balanced diet is vital for wound healing. Any sort of injury is stress on the body. Lacking the proper nutrients and vitamins does not give the body the extra fuel needed for healing. Wounds will require a higher caloric intake with optimal amounts of protein. Staying well-hydrated will ensure the skin is healthy. Hydration is a significant factor in wound care. Additional vitamins and mineral supplements may be recommended to speed up recovery time.
Factor #4: Activity level
Maintaining a healthy level of fitness is good for full-body health. Depending on the location of the wound, there is likely to be an exercise available that allows the patient to be active while recovering. Wounds often affect more than just the body of the patient. The psychological impact is essential to manage as well. Exercise releases endorphins and often leads to a greater sense of happiness. Physically, exercise reduces inflammation and oxidative damage. A little inflammation is the body’s natural protective response to an injury. Too much inflammation can block the body’s production of prostaglandins and lead to abscesses and increased scarring. Reduced swelling equates to quicker healing time and, often, less pain and discomfort. During an injury, the body produces free radicals and can quickly go into oxidative stress. Exercise increases the body’s level of antioxidants, thereby reducing the damaging effects of free radicals.
Factor #5: Type of wound
Shape, size, depth, and cause of the injury all play a factor in wound healing. Surface level wounds will heal much faster than deep gashes or internal injuries. Straight lines will heal quicker than jagged cuts. Circular injuries typically take the longest to heal. The shorter and shallower the wound, the quicker the healing time. The surface size of the wound is not the best indicator of healing time. For instance, a stab wound may appear as a 2-inch cut on the surface of the skin, but puncture wounds like these are deceptive. There may not be a lot of bleeding, but the internal damage can be severe. Lacerations often bleed extensively and the healing time can be long. Avulsions, complete removal of skin and tissue, are the most complicated to treat and often have the longest healing time.
Factor #6: Healing environment
There is no hard and fast rule on how much water skin needs to function. Too little and the skin dries out, too much can lead to additional sores. Both can increase the chance of infection. The ideal environment is neither dry nor overly wet. Injuries and wounds produce an immune response from the body. Wounds naturally produce histamine and plasma, giving the appearance of a wet environment. Bandages work to absorb excess fluids and prevent further infection of the wound. Bandages also work to keep any topical medicine from being rubbed off. Moist environments heal faster, promote cell regeneration, reduce pain, and decrease the chance of permanent scarring.
Dry skin will likely crack and expose the patient to risk of further infection. Dry environments cause cells to die and slow down the healing process. Scabs are one example of skin drying out over a wound. While sealing a wound prevents bacteria from entering the infected area, scabs often crack, bleed, and are typically more painful. Wet skin will likely appear wrinkly and lighter in color. Overly wet environments make the skin more susceptible to infection and increase the chance of new wound development.
Six major factors are involved in wound care. Age, weight, diet, and activity level are all lifestyle factors that have a large impact on recovery time. Wound type and the healing environment both determine the level of care needed. The entire body is involved in the recovery process. Maintaining good overall health aids in better and quicker wound healing. For more information about HBOT and wound healing, consult with a healthcare provider.