dressing wound on senior handAging affects the entire body, from skin thickness to circulation and hydration. These factors all influence how well wounds heal and increase risks for chronic wounds, skin tears and ulcers. Here’s what to keep in mind for yourself or a loved one.

How Wounds Heal

For most people, a wound scabs over and gradually diminishes in appearance. Your body goes through two stages to heal the injury:

  • Inflammation: Your body kills any remaining bacteria and helps get rid of any dead cells to kickstart the healing cycle.
  • Regeneration: Your body creates replacement cells to produce new tissue and blood vessels. The new tissue helps close off the open wound for healing.

For older adults, aging cells can interrupt this process and subsequent wound healing by:

  • Stopping cells from dividing, which draws out the process of generating new tissue.
  • Thinning the layer of fat below the skin, increasing the risk for wounds and infections.
  • Making it difficult for older immune cells to fight off bacteria. In turn, a seemingly minor cut or scrape can become a more serious infection.
  • Requiring more resources and energy for the body to heal a minor wound.
  • Releasing toxic substances into neighboring tissue which delays wound healing, increases inflammation and tissue damage, and contributes to chronic wounds.

Factors Affecting Wound Healing

Considering the wound healing process and effects of aging skin and cells, multiple factors can prolong or interrupt wound recovery.

Skin Quality

Skin takes four times as long to generate new tissue in older adults due to a lifetime of sun exposure, pollution, friction and environmental factors. Dry skin, which is more common in seniors, exacerbates these concerns.

As a result, older adults can be more vulnerable to skin lesions, infections, thickened patches, bruising, bleeding under the skin and itchy, flaky areas.

To combat these factors, older adults are encouraged to apply lotion and moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated and improve wound healing.


Aging, smoking and a low-nutrient diet can also affect how blood circulates through your body. Older adults are encouraged to move more as an injury heals because circulation aids in wound healing.

Existing Health Conditions

Older adults who have decreased sensation, declining eyesight or simply ignore injuries are more likely to develop dermatitis, an infection, a hematoma or edema, and chronic wounds.

Aside from these issues, conditions like diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, a vascular disease or radiation exposure can interrupt the healing process and contribute to chronic wounds and ulcers.

In turn, older adults or their caretakers are advised to routinely check the skin for cuts, blisters and open sores, then seek medical attention before the injury worsens.


The limited diet of older adults may further delay wound healing or contribute to dry skin, rashes and higher injury risks. To help the body fight off infection and build new tissue, older adults should get more protein and supplement with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Medication Side Effects

Certain medications can also influence how wounds heal, including:

  • NSAIDs often interrupt the inflammatory stage to decrease the body’s pain sensation
  • Anticoagulants may prevent the blood from clotting
  • Immunosuppressants interrupt the body’s ability to fight bacteria and control infection

Injury Concerns

Changes in wound healing expose older adults to the following concerns:

  • Pressure Ulcers: Also called bed sores, these injuries occur due to constant pressure and tension wearing away the skin’s surface and causing it to break down. Individuals are more susceptible to pressure ulcers if they have limited mobility or are bedridden, have poor circulation or a limited diet.
  • Chronic Wounds: This term describes an injury that either takes longer to heal or never fully recovers. Chronic health issues, the accumulation of dead skin, infection, insufficient nutrition, chronic bleeding and improperly dressing a wound can also alter the healing cycle.

Are you concerned about the wound healing process for a loved one? Bring any pressure ulcers, chronic wounds or infections to the attention of the medical team at Avon Health Center. To learn more, contact us today.