Healing properly after an injury or surgical incision isn’t easy. Lots of stuff is going on behind the scenes as your body kicks into high gear and tries to make everything all right again. A common side effect of all that work is a scar that forms over the initial wound. Believe it or not, a scar is your body’s attempt to heal itself so no injury occurs to that site again.
Of course, not everyone is pleased with that result, as scars can be unsightly. But with the right wound care, you can hasten the healing process and minimize the resulting scar.
The Healing Process
The skin healing process usually follows a set pattern. You may not heal properly, though, if any of these stages is interrupted. Common wound healing stages include:
- Inflammatory stage – This is when the blood vessels tighten as a way of preventing blood loss. It’s also when platelets flood the site to form a clot. Then, the blood vessels get bigger to accommodate maximum blood flow to the injury site. Ever wonder why a fresh injury gets warm and red? This is why. White blood cells gather to destroy microbes, then your skin cells multiply across the wound.
- Fibroblastic stage – This is when collagen starts to grow at the site of injury, encouraging the edges of the wound to close up. Capillaries will form to bring blood to the new skin.
- Maturation stage – This is when more collagen is added to the area, a process that takes months or years. This would explain why scars will fade over time and why we should take good care of those sites because the healing process takes much longer than we realize.
What Gets in the Way of Wound Healing?
There are many factors that slow down the wound healing process, such as:
- Necrosis – This is a fancy term for dead skin and foreign materials that can hamper the healing process.
- Infection – Open wounds can fall victim to a bacterial infection, prompting your body to fight the infection instead of focusing on wound healing.
- Hemorrhage – This is when you persistently bleed, which keeps the wound from closing.
- Diet – A poor diet can rob the body of necessary wound healing nutrients like vitamin C, protein and zinc.
- Medical conditions – Diabetes, anemia and vascular diseases that restrict blood flow can decrease the immune system’s power.
- Age – It takes longer for wounds to heal in the elderly.
- Medicines – Certain drugs can interfere with the natural healing process.
- Smoking – Tobacco use impairs the healing process and boosts your risk of complications.
- Varicose veins – These can lead to skin break-down and repeated ulceration.
- Dryness – Wounds exposed to the air don’t heal as well or as fast. Skin cells require a moist environment.
Achieving proper wound care takes time and patience. Nurture your wound, cover it initially, massage it as it heals, and use silicone scar gels such as Scarfade twice daily to encourage fading and minimizing of the scar over time.