Why You Should Never Ignore Wounds That Won’t Heal

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Minor foot injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, or blisters, aren’t uncommon. For many people, these wounds form a scab, heal, and eventually disappear within a few days. Unfortunately, the healing process isn’t as simple for those with circulatory problems or diabetes. Slow-healing wounds are a very real problem 一 and one that you should never ignore.

In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about slow-healing wounds and the risk of ignoring them.

Normal healing versus slow healing

Whether you scraped your foot on a nail or skinned your knee on the concrete, normal healing follows a four-part process: hemostasis, inflammation, growth and proliferation, and maturation.

Normal healing process

Hemostasis starts immediately after the injury. This process creates clots at the site of the injury to stop bleeding.

The next step is inflammation. During this phase, your body works to bring nutrients and oxygen to the injury site to promote healing. White blood cells work to fight infections. You might notice swelling, warmth, and clear liquid near the wound.

The third stage, growth and proliferation, focuses on rebuilding connective tissues.

Finally, the fourth stage, maturation or remodeling, lasts for months to years in which collagen synthesis takes place and a scar forms.

Slow-healing process

Most wounds follow the above process and heal within a few weeks, but approximately 6.5 million Americans experience wounds that don’t heal as quickly as they should. Wounds need oxygen and nutrients to heal, and anything that compromises your circulation can increase your risk of having a wound that just won’t heal. You might suspect your wound is slow-healing if:

  • It takes longer than four weeks to heal
  • Swelling, warmth, or redness surround the wound
  • The wound site is growing larger
  • The wound oozes pus and/or smells foul
  • Pain and tenderness is increasing
  • Your skin is changing color
  • You develop a fever

Note: if you think you have a slow-healing wound (or are prone to them), you don’t have to wait for four weeks before reaching out for medical attention. Properly treating wounds from the beginning can help you avoid unwanted complications, especially if you have diabetes or vascular diseases. In these cases, seek wound care as soon as you sustain the initial injury.

Why you should never ignore wounds that won’t heal

Slow-healing wounds always require medical attention. Without treatment, you increase your risk of serious health complications such as:


Foot ulcers are open wounds on the foot, and they’re a common complication of diabetes. As many as one out of every four people with diabetes experience ulcers. Ulcers aren’t limited to the feet, though; you can also develop them on your legs.


When your wound doesn’t receive the oxygen and nutrients it needs from proper blood flow, gangrene can set in. Gangrene refers to tissue death, either through bacterial infections or lack of blood flow.


In serious cases, gangrene can lead to the need for amputation. Amputation isn’t taken lightly, but it can halt the spread of tissue death. About 54% of all amputations in America are due to the complications of vascular disease, including peripheral artery disease and diabetes.

Preventing complications of slow-healing wounds

There’s no denying that complications of slow-to-heal wounds are serious. You can reduce your risk of these complications by scheduling routine diabetic foot care, seeking wound care (including debridement) as soon as possible, and managing any underlying health conditions that may impact your body’s ability to heal quickly.

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