Infected wounds occur when microorganisms colonize within a cut or puncture wound, causing either a deterioration of the wound or delayed healing. Most wounds are usually contaminated with some amount of bacteria; however, infections result when the body’s immune defenses are unable to cope with bacterial growth. Unfortunately, as infections spread they can lead to serious problems, which demand immediate medical treatment.
What Are the Risks?
Without intervention, infected wounds can lead to a host of medical emergencies that can cost patients their limbs or their lives. As bacteria spreads, it can result in the death of surrounding tissue, including muscle, bones, and connective tissue. Infections can also spread to the bloodstream, causing septic shock, which can result in organ failure or death.
Infected Wound Treatment
With proper treatment, infected wounds usually heal quickly and completely. Treatment can vary based on the severity of the wound. With that said, it usually involves cleaning, sterilization and antibiotics to help kill or prevent the spread of invading bacteria. NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen, may also be used to decrease pain, swelling, or fever.
When to Seek Treatment
Even very small wounds can become infected with all sorts of different types of dangerous bacteria, including Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). MRSA is caused by overuse of antibiotics, which in turn causes the bacteria to become resistant to many antibiotics.
While small wounds are easily treated as a local infection, delayed treatment can lead to serious complications. Early identification and intervention can play a critical role in recovery, so it’s important to seek medical help if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- A fever or chills
- A foul odor coming from the wound
- Increased swelling, redness or tenderness
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Pus or drainage
- Warmth on or around the wound
- Red streaks progressing away from the wound
What Increases the Risk of Infection?
Anything that decreases your body’s natural healing abilities can also put you at risk for infection. This includes diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and conditions that affect the kidneys, liver and lungs. High blood pressure and narrowing blood vessels can also increase your risk, since they compromise blood flow. A weak immune system will also increase your risk, especially if you’ve undergone radiation treatments for cancer.