In the treatment of wounds, the role of zinc in the wound healing process has been highly debated.
There are reports and research on the use of the mineral as both a nutritional supplement and as a topical application in the service of wound care. Both present conflicting conclusions.
So what is zinc and how is it in the process of wound care and healing? Let’s look at what zinc is, how it’s used and its effects.
What is zinc?
Zinc is a mineral and a trace element and, after iron, the second most abundant mineral in the body (approximately 2-3 grams). According to the Mayo Clinic, zinc is key to a number of vital body functions and plays a role in muscle and bone development, kidney and liver functions and the immune system.
Although zinc is naturally produced by the body, some people can suffer from a zinc deficiency, which can result in hair loss, stunted growth and lowered immunity. In addition, the National Institutes of Health’s Medline Plus website states zinc plays a role in cell division and growth.
In the case of a zinc deficiency, it can be replenished naturally through foods such as meat, beans, and some shellfish, or through supplements.
Supplement or topical application?
As a nutritional supplement for wound infection treatment, zinc’s effectiveness has been debated. In their study “Zinc and Wound Healing: A Review of Zinc Physiology and Clinical Applications,” researchers Samuel Kogan, BA; Aditya Sood, MD, MBA; and Mark S. Granick, MD state there’s disagreement between clinicians on the best method of application and the true benefits of zinc supplementation.
In an article entitled “Vitamin C and Zinc for Healing Pressure Ulcers,” the website Nutrition 411 states that a number of treatment facilities include zinc supplements in their wound healing treatment for pressure ulcers.
Meanwhile, Medline Plus states that zinc taken intravenously with other mineral supplements appears to assist in wound healing for victims of burns, but a zinc supplement alone does not, however it does appear to shorten the time of recovery.
As a topical application, zinc oxide appears to have better results. The Kogan, Sood, Granick study stated that topical zinc oxide is effective in debriding pressure ulcers and diabetic ulcers, as well as burns, and improve wound healing rates. But its effectiveness is not the same across all wound types.
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