Health Library

Categories > Skin and Scalp Care > Treating skin problems

Wounded? What to do
Look for the signs
When it just won’t heal

Bruise control
Bruise control

As you age, your skin thins out and capillaries become more fragile, making bruises a pretty common occurrence. Some medicines, such as blood thinners, can also cause you to bruise easily.

Most bruises have a predictable pattern: The blemish starts out as a black and blue or purple blob, then turns greenish and fades away in about two weeks. But if you have bruises that won’t heal, develop for no reason or are unusually large or painful, you could have a blood-clotting disorder or a blood disease. See your healthcare provider immediately.

Whether you’ve got a simple scrape, cut or gash, a bedsore or a surgical incision, taking care of any wound is key—especially for those who suffer from diabetes or other conditions that make healing difficult. For these people, a seemingly innocent injury can lead to gangrene, amputation or even death if it’s not properly treated.

Look for the signs

When a wound has become infected, there may be:

  • redness, warmth and tenderness around the wound
  • pus (a yellowish-white fluid coming from the wound, sometimes with a foul odor)
  • fever

If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see your healthcare provider right away. Other possible complications include infections in your bloodstream and septic shock, a critical illness that can cause organ failure and death.

When it just won’t heal

Any open sore needs to be cleaned, and debris, dirt or splinters removed. But if the wound is infected, or just won’t heal, your healthcare provider may also recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Dressings. Made of gauze, foam or other materials, special dressings contain antibacterial or antiviral substances. They prevent further injury, protect against germs and infection and give a wound enough moisture to help it heal.
  • Skin substitutes. People with diabetes may get help for slow-healing wounds from a material made from dissolvable mesh and human cells. It’s placed over the wound, and as it’s slowly absorbed into the body, the human cells replace the damaged tissue in the wound.
  • Hyperbaric therapy. Spending time inside a special chamber, where the air pressure is much higher than you’re used to, brings more oxygen to the body. This can improve circulation and speed wound healing.
  • Off-loading. This means keeping pressure off the affected area. If you have diabetes, you may need special footwear or require crutches to stay off a foot wound.
  • Super-charging your diet. When the body’s healing, it needs more protein and vitamins A and C. Get them from lean beef, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy, dark-green leafy vegetables, orange or yellow vegetables, citrus fruits and spinach. Discuss your diet with your healthcare provider, especially if you have diabetes.
  • Surgery. To remove dead tissue from the wound, your healthcare provider may perform a procedure called surgical debridement. He or she will use a scalpel or other tool to remove damaged, dead or infected tissue. Some patients may need flap reconstruction. In this procedure, a pad of skin or other tissue (usually taken from a patient’s own body) is used to cover the wound.