Everyone receives wounds over the course of their lifetime. A wound is a break in the structure of an organ or tissue caused by an external agent. Most wounds affect the skin, the first line of defense against infection. Commonly recognized examples include bruises, grazes, tears, cuts, punctures (made by pointed objects), incisions (clean cuts), contusions (may not break the skin but can cause damage), lacerations (jagged, irregular cuts), and burns. While some wounds heal easily, approximately five million Americans suffer from chronic open sores that can become seriously infected.

Signs and Symptoms

Wounds are often accompanied by the following signs and symptoms.

What Causes It?

Wounds can be caused by any of the following.

Who's Most At Risk?

The following risk factors are associated with wounds.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

If you receive a serious wound, you should see your health care provider. Your provider will determine the extent and severity of the injury, possible contamination, and conditions that might complicate treatment. He or she may also order laboratory tests, such as a blood test and urinalysis, as well as a culture to check for bacteria in the wound. Your provider may also suggest you get a tetanus vaccine.

Treatment Options


Most wounds are accidental and often preventable. Once you've received a wound, infection and other complications can be prevented by carefully cleaning the wound and using antibiotics as needed.

Treatment Plan

Treatment depends on the type and severity of the wound. Some wounds, such as clean lacerations, are relatively minor and can be treated at home. Clean the wound with a gentle cleanser and stop the bleeding, then cover with an adhesive bandage. Other wounds, particularly those where the bleeding will not stop, or any wounds resulting from animal or human bites or fishhook injuries (do not remove the hook) can be serious and must be treated by a health care professional. Some wounds may involve a loss of tissue and require a skin graft, where a piece of skin is cut from a healthy part of the body and used to heal the damaged area. Your health care provider will determine whether the wound can be closed immediately, by suturing or grafting, or whether it must be kept open because of contamination. Infected wounds are never closed until the wound has been successfully treated.

Drug Therapies

Your provider may prescribe the following medications:

Surgical and Other Procedures

In the case of severe wounds, surgery is sometimes needed. This may involve cutting out burned tissue and removing contaminated tissue, skin grafting, and draining wound abscesses (pus surrounded by inflamed tissue).

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

A comprehensive treatment plan for wounds may include a range of complementary and alternative therapies.

Potentially beneficial nutrient supplements include those listed below. These supplements can also be taken before surgery to reduce healing time. Lower dose or stop use when wound has healed. Herbs
Certain herbal remedies may offer relief from symptoms. Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or tinctures (alcohol extraction, unless otherwise noted). Dose for teas is 1 heaping tsp./cup water steeped for 10 minutes (roots need 20 minutes).

Some of the most common acute remedies for wounds are listed below.

Prognosis/Possible Complications

Prognosis depends on the extent and severity of the initial wound, as well as any subsequent infection. There are several complications associated with wounds: infection; keloid scar tissue formation (an overgrowth of scar tissue that can be deforming); gangrene (which may require amputation); wound hemorrhage; sepsis; and tetanus (a potentially fatal infection of the nervous system).

Following Up

Check for signs of bleeding, discoloration, or swelling in and around the wound. Inform your provider if you experience fever, increasing pain, and the development of drainage, which may indicate an infection.


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