Wound recovery is more complicated in elderly people.
Elderly people typically experience delayed wound healing more frequently than their younger counterparts. As the body ages, a wound, whether it’s surgical or from an animal bite, is more likely to heal at a slower rate. If you are a family member or caretaker of an elderly person, it’s important to observe his or her wound very closely and learn more about the wound recovery process among senior citizens.
Why is wound healing more complicated among older adults?
- Delayed inflammatory response: The inflammatory response is the initial phase when blood vessels expand to allow white blood cells and nutrients to reach the wound. This response can significantly slow down in elderly people, according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Diabetes: Approximately 11.2 million people over the age 65 have diabetes, according to a 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report. This disease can slow down the wound healing process for several different reasons. Wound Care Centers points out that elevated blood sugar levels in diabetic patients narrows blood vessels and hardens the arteries, which both negatively affect wound healing. Diabetic neuropathy, which results in loss of sensation, can also slow down wound healing. When a diabetic person can’t feel changes in a wound, it can become more severe.
- Reduced skin elasticity: As people grow older, their skin loses elasticity, which can prevent it from recovering quickly. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, aging skin can make wound healing four times slower.
Exercise can help speed up wound recovery in elderly people
Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to accelerate wound healing in elderly patients. According to a study conducted at Ohio State University, working out regularly can speed up the wound recovery process in older adults by 25 percent. The study involved 28 healthy adults between the ages of 55 and 77. About 13 of the participants worked out three days a week for three months while the remaining participants didn’t change their exercise habits.
Each participant received 1/8-inch puncture wound on the back of the upper arm. Researchers took pictures of the wounds three times a week until they healed. The study revealed that wounds healed about 10 days faster in subjects who worked out.