The Immune System’s Role in Wound Healing
It might not be talked about as much as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, but chronic wounds are one of the most devastating medical conditions around the world.
Medical experts dub it as the silent epidemic because it affects so many people around the world causing high morbidity and mortality rates.
In the United States alone, at least 6.7 million people suffer from chronic wounds and it is becoming an economic burden because of how much money is spent on wound care each year.
This is why primary wound healing is becoming more important today. This complex process of how a body heals itself may still not be fully understood even by medical experts, but they know one thing for sure, the immune system plays a very important role in making it happen.
Phases of Wound Healing
When you incur a wound, it goes through four phases of healing: hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling. Also known as primary wound healing, these processes all involve the immune system in making sure that they progress well and give a patient the best outcomes possible.
The moment you get a wound from hitting the ground or cutting yourself, your platelets will instantly aggregate to the affected area to initiate a clot. This is your body’s response to the damage in your skin layers and blood vessels to prevent further blood loss.
Once the platelets have already formed a clot on the wound, the next step in primary wound healing is inflammation. At this point, redness and swelling occur at the damaged site to allow immune cells called neutrophils to reach the area and start removing bacteria from the wound.
After this, monocytes are also released and differentiate into macrophages where they prepare the wound for tissue repair.
As the proliferative phase begins, the macrophages help with tissue repair by reconstructing the tissue’s extracellular matrix, which will serve as scaffolding for cells to form new tissues.
During this phase, fibroblast growth factors are produced to help with the growth of fibroblasts that play a huge role in the remodeling phase.
The extracellular matrix is already complete at this point and the macrophages can now begin creating skin cells that will close the wounded area. Myofibroblasts also work on the area to close the wound by imitating the contraction of muscles that result in the permanent closure of the wound to protect it from exposure to the external environment, which could cause infections.
This last stage of primary wound healing takes the longest time since the immune cells will work on creating a permanent closure of the wound and a complete repair of the tissues underneath the skin.
The challenge for the healthcare system now is the growing rates of chronic wounds caused by pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes that can affect the natural wound healing process significantly. This is why boosting the immune system is now a huge part of the treatment process for individuals with chronic wounds.
We specialize in diagnosis and treatment for any and all wound care issues for patients in San Diego County, Orange County, and Riverside County. For more information or to set an appointment, please contact us.