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WHS Offers Help for Non-Healing Wounds

By Kevin Brown

Many people take for granted that a small cut or a blister will heal quickly with simple care such as soap and water, antibiotic ointment and a bandage. For some folks, wounds can take a very long time to heal, if at all.

The Washington Health System (WHS) Wound and Skin Healing Centers offer help to those who experience slow or non-healing wounds. Jocelyn (Joy) Ehren, CRNP, a nurse practitioner and Certified Skin and Wound Specialist, recently joined the centers at WHS. Joy has specialized in the care and treatment of acute, chronic and non-healing wounds since 2006.

“Wound care and treatment are important processes to avoid serious complications,” Joy explains. “Without proper care, a wound can turn into a serious infection such as cellulitis - infection of the skin - or sepsis - blood infection,” she says.

Wound care is not as simple as you might think. Joy advises that proper wound care involves every stage of wound management. “This includes diagnosing wound type, considering factors that affect wound healing, and the proper treatments for wound management,” she notes.

Those with certain health conditions might be susceptible to slow or non-healing wounds. Some of those conditions include diabetes, poor blood flow (vascular disease), cancer, thyroid issues, heart conditions and GI diseases, according to Joy.

“Medications and other treatments can also affect wound healing. Chemo and radiation treatments break down your body’s defense mechanisms. This can slow or stop wound healing. Certain medications such as steroids or anti-inflammatory drugs can also affect wound treatment,” she says.

“Many people don’t think about the habits and other lifestyle factors that affect wound treatment. Some lifestyle factors include malnutrition, obesity, drug use, alcoholism, and smoking. While you may not like talking about some of these issues, they are important in considering proper wound care management. The healthcare team needs to know all the factors that may affect the treatment options,” Joy cautions.

She notes that, if the body gets stuck at any stage of the healing process, mainly in the inflammatory phase of wound healing, the wound is considered a chronic wound. This is where advanced wound treatment is required, which is provided at the WHS Wound and Skin Healing Centers. “The first couple of weeks are the most important time to make sure proper wound care management is maintained,” she says.

It is important to know there are different types of wounds since wound treatment depends on the type of wound you have. Joy identifies three categories of wounds. “An abrasion is a scrape on the skin. This is usually a minor wound with minimum bleeding. A puncture is a hole in the skin. This type of wound may or may not bleed, but it can cause damage to internal organs. A laceration is a deep cut in the skin. This type of wound involves heavy bleeding.”

You may notice one or more signs that your wound is not healing including drainage from the wound such as pus; redness or warmth around the wound, particularly if it’s spreading; bad odor; increasing pain; darkening skin at the edges of the wound; or fever.

Joy explains that treatments for slow healing wounds can include medications and other therapy to improve blood flow; therapy to reduce swelling; wound debridement, or removing dead tissue around the wound to help it heal; special skin ointments to help wounds heal; and special bandages and other skin coverings to help speed up healing. Along with these treatments, Joy notes that nutritional support, antibiotic medications to control infection, and medications to control diabetes, among others, can be effective treatments.

“For more extreme cases, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be necessary,” Joy says. “That’s where a patient is exposed to 100 percent oxygen for two hours in a pressurized chamber. The extra oxygen - typically we breathe just 20 percent oxygen - helps heal infection and grow new blood vessels to allow wounds to heal,” she says.

“It may take up to a few years to completely heal. An open wound may take longer to heal than a closed wound. A larger, deep cut will heal faster if your health care provider sutures it. This helps to make the area your body has to rebuild smaller,” Joy advises.

WHS Wound and Skin Healing Centers are located in Washington and Waynesburg. For more information, visit www.whs.org or call (724) 223-6903 in Washington or (724) 627-1600 in Waynesburg.



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