Chronic inflammation can lead to enhanced wound scarring.

There are three main stages to the wound healing process: inflammation, proliferation and remodeling. The symptoms of inflammation, which include heat, redness, swelling and pain, can be quite unpleasant, but they’re generally indicative of healthy, normal healing. But in some cases, such as when inflammation is excessive or persistent, it can lead to other health complications. So it’s important to understand this stage of wound healing and be aware of excessive swelling, redness and other symptoms.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the first stage of the healing process after bleeding stops. It’s the process by which the white blood cells in the body protect the affected area from infection, guarding against potentially harmful bacteria and viruses. When inflammation occurs in the body, chemicals are expelled from the white blood cells into the wound site, and this is what causes the redness and warmth. The chemicals can also cause fluid leakage, thereby causing swelling, and the process sometimes stimulates the nerves, which accounts for the pain that some people feel when experiencing inflammation.

Is inflammation harmful to my health?

While inflammation protects the wound site against wound infection and is a natural mechanism administered by the body, it can cause tissue damage if it persists too long. When it continues for a long period of time – or is excessive to the point of debilitation – it is called “chronic inflammation.” In this case, it can actually disrupt immune function by focusing the immune system on the affected area. This can leave your body more susceptible to bacteria and other harmful outside elements. Of course, one way to offset the effect of a weakened system caused by inflammation is to maintain a nutrient and vitamin-rich diet that strengthens immune function.

Is wound inflammation necessary?

While the medical world has long believed that inflammation is essential to and good for recovery, some scientists question whether inflammation is actually a necessary part of wound healing. As reported in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, clinical studies have shown that inflammation actually delayed recovery and may result in increased scar tissues. For that reason, researchers are calling for further investigation into the inflammatory response and means of reducing it. For now, the question of the necessity of inflammation is up in the air, but future analysis may lead to new discoveries and advancements in the world of wound healing.

Can I prevent inflammation?

There are ways to reduce inflammation and swelling and, in effect, speed up recovery and reduce the amount of scarring. Ice is commonly used to reduce swelling, and zinc supplements have been clinically proven to decrease inflammation levels, according to scientists at Linköping University’s Faculty of Health Sciences. There are also anti-inflammatory foods that may be beneficial, such as oily fish like salmon and sardines, whole grains, dark leafy greens, nuts, soy and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Please remember: if you have a question about inflammation or the care needed for your wound, contact your healthcare provider.  

Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients, delivering to both homes and long-term care facilities.