Ever wondered what exactly happens to your body when a wound gets infected? Our skin is a barrier from the external world. The skin is a marvelous organ which acts as a shield protecting us from the entry of foreign, and potentially harmful substances. Though… If this barrier is breached, all hell may break loose.
How sensitive and fragile is humankind that a slight brush, a slight pricky touch breaches this otherwise-strong barrier. When one is wounded such that the skin is hurt and blood oozes out, a whole dynamic process is immediately initiated so that foreign particles do not enter the body via the wound. The process of blood clotting occurs to stop the bleeding, and, at the same time, the immune system gets rid of the harmful pathogens.
Now, in spite of this, wounds may get infected. Bacteria may find entry into the system and colonize parts of the body. Wounds do get contaminated by bacteria, but generally, these are dealt with by the immune system. However, the immune system may not be able to do so at other times. That is when the wounds get infected, as a result of the growth of bacteria which have not been kept at bay by the cells of the immune system. As the bacteria are allowed to proliferate, infection occurs.
Infections of wounds may also happen as a result of surgery.
How do wounds get infected?
The infection may be caused by bacteria found in the skin, or bacteria from other parts of the body, or those from the external environment. While we may all fret about the presence of bacteria, the human body itself shelters quite an impressive number of microorganisms in its make-up. The skin, for instance, is full of bacteria. The digestive tract also has its own strains of bacteria helping in digestion. The microorganisms are not harmful to the body because they are found in a certain number to which the body is tolerant; besides, they are needed by the body. The bacteria in the skin have a purpose: they safeguard the person from harmful bacteria. These otherwise harmless bacteria form part of the normal flora of the skin. However, if they reach other parts of the body where they are not normally found, or, if they multiply beyond their normal levels in their usual location, they become potentially harmful to the body.
When the barrier of protection is disrupted, these normally harmless bacteria are able to colonize that area. When they do so, the tissue where they are multiplying gets pretty much damaged, thereby preventing immediate healing of the wound. They contribute to more and more inflammation, which further prevents healing from occurring.
It is to be noted that inflammation is a normal reaction to occur during the entry of foreign antigens into the body; it forms part of the initiation of the immune response, whereby the molecules to do away with the antigens flood to the site of infection, thus causing inflammation as blood rushes to bring in the active members of the immune system.
Symptoms of Infected Wounds & Risk Level
Infected wounds are painful, on top of causing a red patch to appear on the skin. Pus discharges may be given off, and at times, unpleasant odours are also a result thereof. The most obvious of all symptoms is the great delay in healing.
Those with compromised immune system are particularly prone to getting infections. Diabetics and the elderly are also part of the vulnerable group.
Complications Due To Infected Wounds
If infected wounds are not healed, the person experiences great pain and discomfort. The infection may propagate to the tissues found in the vicinity, causing a bacterial skin infection known as cellulitis, or, an acute bone infection known as osteomyelitis. If the bacteria get across blood vessels, the infection might spread to other parts of the body.
How To Treat Infected Wounds?
Proper dressing of a wound is primordial to prevent the propagation of the bacteria. Dressings should be changed regularly enough. Sterile equipment should be used, and hands must be washed when dressing wounds.
Antibiotics can be used to fight the microorganisms.