The wound healing process may begin with bleeding and ends with scar formation.

When you experience a wound on part of your body, it goes through specific wound healing stages. In general, smaller wounds heal more quickly, while large, deep wounds tend to take longer, though the dressings you use, your overall health status and many other factors can play a role in recovery. Clinicians and researchers may think of the wound healing process in terms of the three phases – inflammatory, proliferation and maturation – but this does little to explain the recognizable physical signs to the patient. Review these physical signs of healing to make sure your wound is healing in a healthy, timely manner.

Bleeding

While not all wounds bleed (i.e., burns and pressure sores), a puncture will. When this happens, the blood will begin to clot within a few minutes, and the bleeding should stop. As the blood begins to dry, it will form a scab. Those who experience excessive bleeding and an inability to form a scab after a minor puncture, cut or scrape should seek medical attention, as it could be the cause of an underlying medical condition.

Swelling

After the formation of the scab, the body’s immune system begins to take action. It becomes swollen and tender. You may also notice that the wound is secreting a clear fluid – this is the body’s way of flushing out and cleansing the area. The affected area may turn a reddish or pinkish color as the blood vessels open up and expand, allowing for the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the wound site. During this stage, which lasts from 2-5 days, white bloods cells are hard at work fighting infection and repairing the wound bed.

Tissue re-growth

After about five days into the wound healing process, the tissue re-growth stage begins. It typically lasts around three weeks for minor wounds, and it’s the time when the body repairs broken blood vessels and replaces damaged tissues with healthy new ones. This new natural material is called granulation tissue, and it will be covered over with a new layer of skin. As the affected area continues to heal, the skin will pull the edges inward and the wound will get smaller.

Scar formation

The last of the wound healing stages can last as long as two years. The area may become red, stretched out and shiny as the scab falls off, and you may experience itching. The scar that has formed will be smaller than the original lesion, and the skin will be weaker and less flexible than that surrounding it. Scarring occurs because the granulation tissue has grown back differently than the original (a wound that affects only the top layer of skin would likely have little or no scarring). The flawed area may fade or disappear entirely with time.