5 Factors That Affect Wound Healing

As your largest, fastest-growing, and most exposed organ, your skin forms a vital protective barrier that safeguards you from infection, regulates your body temperature, and helps facilitate your sense of touch.  

Your skin is inherently strong, but it’s also vulnerable to injury — sufficient pressure or friction can easily result in a scratch, abrasion, laceration, or some other painful wound. Luckily, your skin is remarkably resilient, too, in that it can repair most wounds and heal itself without much external support. 

Although wound healing is a relatively straightforward process, it can be accelerated, slowed, or otherwise influenced by a variety of factors. Here’s what you need to know about the stages of healing, and why some wounds may take longer to improve than others.   

Wound healing basics

Wounds go through three specific stages as they progress through the healing process: 

Inflammation

During the inflammatory phase of healing, your body’s corrective mechanisms form a clot to stop any bleeding, then stimulate nearby blood vessels to flood the area with reparative and regenerative cells like growth factors, enzymes, white blood cells, and antibodies. 

Proliferation

Once initial inflammation subsides, your body enters the second stage of healing: proliferation. During this phase, the wound contracts as your body builds a new network of blood vessels to ensure the area receives enough oxygen and nutrients to support the growth of new, healthy tissues. 

Maturation

The final stage of healing, maturation, occurs when tissue regrowth has advanced far enough to prompt wound “resurfacing” with fresh skin cells. Once the surface area is strong, scabs fall away to reveal tighter, newer skin layers that may continue to remodel and rebuild for a year or longer. 

Wound healing progression

The type, size, and severity of a wound can affect how quickly it heals — shallow cuts heal more quickly than deep lacerations, clean wounds heal faster than infected ones, and linear wounds tend to improve more quickly than round ones.   

A wide range of external physiological factors can also affect wound-healing progression, prolonging or even impeding the process altogether. Five of the most significant factors are: 

1. Advanced age

As you get older, hormonal changes and the cumulative effects of photoaging (sun damage) combine to leave your skin drier, thinner, more delicate, and less elastic. Besides leaving your skin more susceptible to injury, these age-related changes can substantially slow the healing process; older tissues simply don’t repair and regenerate as quickly as younger tissues.  

2. Excess body weight

People who are very overweight or obese are more likely to experience delayed wound healing as well as wound complications, including infection. 

Being overweight places more pressure on the wound itself, effectively decreasing the amount of nutrients and oxygen it receives to fuel the healing process. Wounds that occur within skin folds also tend to heal more slowly due to continuous friction and tissue breakdown.  

3. Chronic illness

Chronic conditions are a major factor in impaired wound healing for many people. Although the mechanisms at play tend to be numerous and varied, most persistent illnesses delay healing by interfering with one or more aspects of the immune system response. 

Diabetes can slow the healing process by making white blood cells less effective. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions that give rise to poor circulation may also make it harder for your body to deliver oxygen, nutrients, and reparative cells to an injured area.   

4. Poor nutrition

Optimal wound healing requires optimal nutritional support. People who eat an unhealthy diet that doesn’t meet their basic nutritional needs are more likely to experience the kind of slow or delayed healing that can lead to chronic wounds or injuries that take longer than three months to heal completely. 

5. Unhealthy habits

People who smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol are more likely to experience slower healing rates than those who don’t smoke or drink. Both habits inhibit wound healing by suppressing your body’s inflammatory response and restricting the flow of blood, oxygen, nutrients, and reparative cells to the injured area. 

Wound healing management 

Here at the Vascular Institute of New York in Borough Park, Brooklyn, our seasoned wound care experts have the skills, training, and experience it takes to help you overcome virtually any kind of wound, ranging from diabetic foot ulcers and venous leg ulcers to pressure ulcers and other chronic wounds. 

To find out how we can help you accelerate the healing process, call 718-438-3800 today, or click online to schedule a visit with one of our wound care specialists any time. 

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