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Senior Citizen's Guide to Southwest Ohio

Chronic Wounds Don't Have to Be Forever

For most people, wounds are mere inconveniences — here today and gone next week. But for others, they are life-altering realities, causing pain, isolation, lengthy hospitalizations, disability and even depression. These individuals have chronic wounds, which can take months or even years to heal — if they heal at all.

Wounds become chronic when they do not heal in a predictable amount of time. In fact, they seem to "stall" in one or more phases of wound healing. Such wounds can include:

Why do some people develop chronic wounds, while others seem to have little difficulty healing?

Poor circulation, whether caused by the aging process or illness, can be a culprit. So can underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart failure, because they diminish the body's natural ability to heal.

Poor nutrition is another factor — people who are deficient in protein, Vitamin A and/or zinc are at particular risk for developing chronic wounds. And sometimes it's simply a matter of inadequate self-care. When people don't know how to care for their wounds, their condition can deteriorate to the point that hospitalization is necessary.

When to Seek Help

Deciding to seek care for a chronic wound can be difficult for some people, because they are embarrassed or simply worried that the wound is not treatable. But medical attention is essential when:

Treatment Options Provide Hope and Healing

The good news is that highly effective therapies are available. Physicians and nurses specially trained in wound care have many tools at their disposal, and can personalize their approach based on the patient's needs.

The treatment plan must begin with an assessment of the patient's overall health status so that healthcare providers can address any underlying medical conditions that are interfering with the healing process. Strengthening the patient's immune system through improved nutrition is also essential.

Among the therapies in the wound care arsenal are:

Such therapies can often lead to remarkable recoveries. This was certainly the case for Retired Air Force Col. Helen Colley, a Cincinnati resident who suffers from cutaneous scleroderma localized to the skin. This autoimmune condition causes the skin to lose its vascular supply. One result is that even tiny abrasions can develop into open, draining wounds.

Three years ago, a small ulcer on Col. Colley's leg refused to heal and developed into a major wound. She recalls feeling very discouraged as she watched the wound get worse and worse. Eventually, she had to keep the leg elevated at all times, even in the tub!

Col. Colley had skin graft surgery, followed by inpatient HBO therapy and antibiotic therapy to reduce her infection risk. "Now I am just as active as I was before," she says. "I'm able to travel, garden, take care of my animals and sing in my church choir again. It's wonderful."

Millions of people suffer from chronic wounds every year, but there is no need to do so alone. If you or someone you know is suffering from a chronic wound, I urge you to seek the care of a qualified wound care specialist. Healing and an improved quality of life can be closer than you think.

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