Nearly everyone has experienced getting a cut or wound at some point in their lives. It’s an injury in which either an external or internal tissue, mostly the skin that ruptures. These injuries can be body scratches, small cuts, burns, pressure sores, lacerations, etc.
Wounds can also be surgical like a cut during an operation or traumatic from any accident, fights, bites, falls, or a weapon. Generally, minor damages are non-life-threatening and, with proper care, can be easily treated at home. But, a chronic infected wound needs medical attention.
What is an Infected Wound?
A break in the skin as a wound, the body’s first line of defense is to save us from infection. However, in some instances, pathogenic organisms like germs enter the tissues surrounding the wound, causing infection. It triggers the body’s immune response, causing tissue damage and inflammation, hampering the healing process.
If the infection is minor such as infected hair follicle, scratch, or a small cut, it normally heals on its own with time. In severe conditions, the wound needs medical attention and should be treated immediately to avoid further damage to the body.
The wound is more prone to infection if:
- The person has diabetes or other pre-existing chronic illness
- The person is over 65 years of age
- The object which caused the wound was dirty or rusty
- The immune system is weak, such as in cases of chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, steroids, etc.
- The wound was caused by a human or animal bite
- The wound has foreign particles or objects that caused injuries, such as glass, thorns, pieces of wood or metal
- The wound is large or deep and bleeds
Signs and Symptoms of An Infected Wound
An infected wound can go from bad to worse if it’s not diagnosed on time. The sooner you seek medical treatment, the better are the chances of healing and avoiding further complications.
Consult the medical professional immediately if you observe any of these symptoms:
Increased or severe pain: In most cases, the pain reduces as the wound heals, but if you are experiencing consistent pain or it gets worse, it’s likely that the wound is infected and needs medical care. The patient can also get body aches, weakness or restlessness as a result of severe pain.
Dead tissue –If there are black edges around the injury, it indicates dead tissue and wound infection.
Feeling sick: Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or a noticeable lack of energy are also signs of infection in the wound. If discomfort or uneasiness persists, it could mean that the condition is slowly affecting other body systems.
Fever – A body temperature of over 100°F or higher for more than 4 hours can be a sign of infection and other health issues.
Redness: If you notice redness around the wound or spreading in patterns in other parts of the body, it’s a clear sign of infection and also that it may be getting worse.
Swelling: It’s a part of any wound’s healing process, but if it doesn’t reduce with time and is causing pain, too, the wound is likely to be infected.
Constricted movement: In some cases of infection, excess pain, swelling or numbness can impair your normal function of the affected area.
Excess pus in the wound – An infected wound can ooze discolored pus from the wound with a bad smell. Take it seriously and speak to your doctor immediately.
Health Hazards of a Wound Infection
Any negligence or delay in the treatment for a wound infection can cause serious complications. The infection to spread in other body parts causing:
Cellulitis is an infection of the deeper layers and tissues of the skin. It causes swelling, redness, pain in the affected area, fever, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting.
Osteomyelitis is a bone’s bacterial infection. The symptoms include redness, pain, and inflammation around the infected area. Fever and fatigue are other symptoms that can affect those with osteomyelitis.
Sepsis is a severe immune reaction when an infection enters the bloodstream. It is life-threatening and can cause multiple organ failure. Every year, nearly 270,000 people in the U.S. die due to sepsis, as per the CDC.
Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare condition wherein a bacterial infection spreads into a tissue called the fascial lining, which lies deep beneath the skin. Necrotizing fasciitis is a medical emergency that causes chronic skin damage, pain and can spread throughout the body. (Leonard 2019)
Don’t Wait for Care
Despite the size of the wound, it’s essential to take speedy action to treat it. Medical experts advise on giving proper wound care, which includes frequent cleaning and dressing changes. For small wounds, homeopathic or home remedies can work. Most important is to clean the wound properly and use sterile bandaging. (Roddick 2018)
For gashes, sliced and puncture wounds, stitches may be required to close the skin and stop bleeding. If you have been in an accident and are actively bleeding or suspect you may also have broken a bone, make your way to an emergency room as soon as possible. You’ll need an x-ray to evaluate your injury. ER doctors are prepared to deal with wounds at any level of severity.
Leonard, Jayne. “Infected Wound: Recognition, Treatment, and When to See a Doctor.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 25 Apr. 2019, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325040#complications.
Roddick, Julie. “Open Wound Treatment.” Healthline, 17 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/open-wound#treatment.