A wound is a break in the tissues of the body caused by trauma or mechanical injury. Bruises (contusions) are tissue injuries that do not break the skin but rupture small blood vessels causing bleeding into tissue spaces. Cuts and scrapes are called open wounds. Deep bruises, usually caused by external forces such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, tools, or machinery are called closed wounds.
Applying either ice or cold wet packs to the bruised area immediately after the injury may lessen discoloration, swelling, and pain of a bruise. Most minor uncontaminated wounds will heal without help, but some require treatment to promote healing and prevent infection. Three kinds of bruises may indicate more serious underlying conditions and warrant seeing a physician: very large, painful injuries, those that have no obvious cause, and those that do not disappear within one or two weeks.
Cleansing is the first line of treatment for wounds. If it’s a minor cut or scrape, here’s what to do: With clean hands, use a pack or soak of a mild detergent in lukewarm water (body temperature). Dry the wound, apply a thin layer of Aquaphor or Vaseline (petroleum jelly) with a swab and cover with a bandage that is not airtight. Antibiotics are fine if directed by a health care provider. The old-time antiseptics such as Tincture of Iodine, Merthiolate, and Mercurochrome are limited in their effectiveness, and are irritating to the tissue. See a physician without delay if your wound covers a large area, is deep, is not healing properly or is spreading, doesn’t look normal or if you don’t feel normal, or have a chronic disease such as diabetes. Be sure your tetanus shots are up to date: every ten years, or five years if the wound has been contaminated with dirt or debris. Check it out with your health care provider.
A number of factors affect the healing rate. Blood supply is probably the most important. The better the blood supply, the faster a wound heals. Wounds on the face where blood supply is generous heal more rapidly than those on legs, where blood supply is comparatively poor. Bed sores (decubiti), a result of increased pressure and poor circulation to the affected area, are noted for their slow healing.
Age and nutrition are important factors in the healing process. Older people generally have less efficient circulation than their younger counterparts. A diet high in protein and certain vitamins (especially vitamin C) helps the healing process. Moreover, various medications, chronic medical conditions and the site of the wound influence healing.
At some time, most of us have to deal with injuries, no matter how careful we are. Slight injuries such as a minor strain (injury to muscles) or a minor sprain (injury to ligaments) can be treated with RICE, an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
- REST helps to keep the injury from getting worse. Pain is your indicator; when you are continuing an activity and pain persists, stop and rest.
- ICE decreases pain and increases blood circulation to the skin, while decreasing circulation to deeper areas where bleeding may occur. Use ice as soon as possible for 20 minutes with a thin layer of material between the ice and the bare skin, repeating every two hours.
- COMPRESSION can prevent swelling. Use an elastic wrap or stocking every four hours, being sure it’s firm but not too tight, throbbing being the indicator.
- ELEVATION limits swelling by draining the fluid, while helping to prevent further injury.
Heat is good, as it promotes blood flow, relaxes muscles and eases pain, aiding the healing process. But heat can increase swelling, so use it when the swelling is gone, after about 48 hours.
Which is better for a wound? Covered or uncovered?
Fortunately, this issue has been investigated scientifically, and it is now conclusively demonstrated that a covered wound heals faster than an uncovered wound! This is because the scab, although it closes off the wound and protects it from infection, actually impedes the growth of new skin cells to cover the wound.
Get immediate medical attention for a wound that is deep, bleeds heavily, or has something embedded in it.