Chronic wounds can heal with the right treatment

At any one time there are around 433,000 Australians suffering with a chronic wound. Healing a chronic wound is a complex process and it can be a lengthy, painful and emotional experience for the person and their family. The impacts of chronic wounds can be divided into physical, emotional and financial impacts.

Physical issues

Pain: Chronic wounds can be extremely painful. This pain can reduce a person’s mobility and level of activity, especially if pain is worse on movement. Lack of movement can increase the likelihood of potential complications including wound infections.  Some types of pain medication will affect wound healing so it is important to discuss the best form of pain relief with your health care practitioner..

Infections:  Infections can make a wound worse and take longer to heal as the body focuses on fighting the infection rather than healing the wound. Wound infections can spread to the whole body through the blood requiring  treatment in hospital.

Daily activities: Undertaking physical activities like showering can take longer and be more difficult when someone has a chronic wound. For some people it compromises their ability to continue going to work.

Emotional issues.

A chronic wound may smell badly or have constant ooze which can be distressing and embarrassing to the person with the wound.  These feelings can lead the person to withdraw from family and social activities. This can isolate a person from family and friends and have an impact on self-esteem and quality of life.

A person with a chronic wound is also at risk of mental health issues including anxiety and depression resulting from social isolation, changes to body image, and significantly decreased quality of life.

Financial issues

There are many costs to treat a chronic wound with little government or other funding available. The dressings, medications (eg for pain or infection) and other products required to manage a chronic wound are expensive. This cost is exacerbated by the length of time taken for a wound to heal. For the individual, research has estimated the cost of wound products to be between $86 and $340 per month, with some chronic wounds taking months to heal. Unfortunately these costs are often borne by people receiving the aged pension or those on a reduced income related to an inability to work.

There are also costs of visits to health professionals involved in diagnosing and treating wounds.  This can include general practitioners, nurses, allied health professionals and specialist doctors. As a result people with a chronic wound are sometimes unable to afford the most effective wound management product or efficient dressing change regime. They may be forced to use inefficient products which further contribute to the length of time it takes for the wound to heal. Where a person with a wound is unable to afford the most effective wound management the wound can fail to heal completely or it returns.  They are also more likely to have wounds or infections that require hospitalisation.