What is wound infection?
A wound infection occurs when bacteria enters a break in the skin. The infection may involve just the skin, or affect deeper tissues or organs close to the wound. An infection with the bacteria that causes tetanus can be fatal.
Complications of infected wounds can vary in range from local to systemic. The most severe local complication of an infected wound is stalled wound healing, resulting in a non-healing wound. This often results in significant pain, discomfort and psychological detriment for the patient. Systemic complications can include cellulitis (bacterial infection of the dermal or subcutaneous layers of skin), osteomyelitis (bacterial infection of the bone or bone marrow) or septicemia (bacterial presence in the blood that can lead to a whole-body inflammatory state).
How common is wound infection?
Wound infection is quite common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of wound infection?
The common symptoms of wound infection are:
- Yellow, yellow-green, or foul-smelling drainage from a wound
- More pain, swelling, or redness in or near a wound
- A change in the color or size of a wound
- Red streaks in the skin around the wound
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes wound infection?
Most infected wounds are caused by bacterial colonization, originating either from the normal flora on the skin, or bacteria from other parts of the body or the outside environment. The most common infection-causing bacteria is Staphylococcus aureus and other types of staphylococci.
What increases my risk for wound infection?
There are many risk factors for wound infection, such as:
- Poor circulation
- Compromised or suppressed immune system
- Decreased mobility or immobility
- Poor hygiene
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is wound infection diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and examine you. He will ask how and when you were wounded. You may have any of the following tests:
- Blood tests may be done to check for infection.
- X-ray or CT may be done to look for infection in deep tissues or a foreign object in your wound. You may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
- A wound culture is a sample of fluid or tissue that taken from the wound. It is sent to a lab and tested for the germ that is causing the infection.
How is wound infection treated?
Treatment will depend on how severe the wound is, its location, and whether other areas are affected. It may also depend on your health and the length of time you have had the wound. Ask your healthcare provider about these and other treatments you may need:
- Medicine will be given to treat the infection and decrease pain and swelling.
- Wound care may be done to clean your wound and help it heal. A wound vacuum may also be placed over your wound to help it heal.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) may be used to get more oxygen to your tissues to help them heal. The pressurized oxygen is given as you sit in a pressure chamber.
- Surgery may be needed to clean the wound or remove infected or dead tissue. Surgery may also be needed to remove a foreign object.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage wound infection?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with wound infection:
- Care for your wound as directed. Keep your wound clean and dry. You may need to cover your wound when you bathe so it does not get wet. Clean your wound as directed with soap and water or wound cleaner. Put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Examples include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Healthy foods may help you heal faster. You may also need to take vitamins and minerals. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
- Manage other health conditions. Follow your healthcare provider’s directions to manage health conditions that can cause slow wound healing. Examples include high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause slow wound healing. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Infected Wounds. https://www.woundsource.com/patientcondition/infected-wounds. Accessed August 7, 2018.
Wound Infection. https://www.drugs.com/cg/wound-infection.html. Accessed August 7, 2018.
Recognizing and Treating Wound Infection. https://www.fairview.org/patient-education/85329. Accessed August 7, 2018.
Review Date: August 24, 2018 | Last Modified: August 24, 2018