Healing is a part of life, but sometimes our bodies, for certain reasons, don’t allow our wounds to heal properly, and in a timely fashion. An estimated 6.5 million people in the United States have chronic or hard-to-heal wounds, often due to diabetes, poor circulation, trauma or other pre-existing medical conditions.
“Sixty percent of the wounds we see are chronic or non-healing for vascular reasons,” says Jihad Abbas, MD, vascular surgeon and medical co-director of the Jobst Vascular Institute’s wound care division at ProMedica Toledo Hospital. “Blood flow is a main reason wounds don’t heal. Either flow towards the wound is poor due to blocked arteries, or blood that is flowing back to the heart is disrupted or meets resistance and that creates high pressure in lower extremities. Both reasons prevent wounds from healing properly. This is why wound care is kind of intricate to vascular specialties, whether surgery or medicine.” Dr. Abbas believes wound care is a multidisciplinary approach, so our vascular specialists work very closely with podiatrists, general surgeons, plastic surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, cardiologists and other specialists across the system who might have patients who are at a greater risk for chronic wounds.
Dr. Abbas says patients from Toledo and the surrounding areas, as well as southeast Michigan, find their way to ProMedica wound care specialists when they discover a wound that hasn’t healed in the amount of time it should have. Each patient is different with their own set of challenges, but he admits the most challenging groups are diabetics.
Uncontrolled blood sugar can harm the nerves in the body, causing a loss of feeling that is vital in detecting cuts, scrapes and other injuries.
“They don’t realize they have a problem that can cause them to have a wound that won’t heal or will get infected,” explains Dr. Abbas. Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can harm the nerves in the body, causing a loss of feeling that is vital in detecting cuts, scrapes and other injuries. “I always tell them to take care of their feet and inspect them every day. Don’t walk barefoot, because you can step on a pin or dirty sharp objects and never feel it. We always tell people not to smoke. Smoking is another major factor that contributes to peripheral arterial disease, blocking arteries and small blood vessels, which results in poor wound healing. Patients with peripheral artery disease, are also advised to watch for any injuries to their lower extremities. We joke with smokers lots of times, we tell them ‘smoking not only affects your health but also your pocket.’”
The outlook often depends on the severity of the problem, but can be good if patients follow their doctor’s instructions. Patients should contact their doctor immediately if they notice green or yellow drainage, odor, swelling, redness or warmth around the wound or a wound that hasn’t healed after 4-6 weeks.