Care tips for hidradenitis suppurativa wounds

Hidradenitis suppurativa wound care promotes healing and prevents infection. Here's how to give your wounds some TLC.

Wound care is an important part of treating hidradenitis suppurativa. You might be dealing with the condition's deep, draining wounds. Or maybe you have wounds from surgery to remove tunnels from under your skin. All wounds need proper care to speed healing, prevent infections and reduce unpleasant odor.

General guidelines are to keep a wound clean and covered by a bandage (dressing). But how to best care for a wound depends on how severe it is, how deep it is, and whether it's wet or dry.

Talk with your doctor about what's most appropriate for your wounds. It can help to understand the process, materials and options your doctor might recommend.

Wound care basics

There are three main steps in wound care.

  • Gentle cleansers, such as saline and sterile water, clean the skin and reduce infection risks. Avoid irritating, harsh soaps. Clean a wound each time you change the dressing.
  • Antiseptics, usually applied after cleansing, help with infected or foul-smelling wounds. Antiseptic solutions kill bacteria. Silver and iodine are most helpful.
  • Dressings cover a wound once it's clean. Several types of dressings exist. But, in general, dressings are made up of multiple layers. The inner layers absorb fluid that the skin releases as it heals. The outer layer keeps the inner layers in place and keeps the wound clean.

Choose a dressing

The right dressing type for you depends, in part, on the amount of moisture that your wound needs to heal.

  • A wound that's dry and not draining fluid needs a dressing that keeps the area moist. Dry wounds heal slowly and can crack and be painful.
  • A wound that's wet and draining a lot of fluid needs an absorbent dressing. Wet wounds can grow in size, tear open or form excess scar tissue.

Dressings for dry wounds

These include:

  • Hydrocolloids. These moist dressings absorb fluids. Hydrocolloid dressings swell and create a gel, allowing the dressing to stay moist — which speeds healing. The gel also absorbs bacteria and inflammatory cells, which are removed when the dressing is removed.
  • Polymer films. These synthetic, clear sheets cover the wound and stick to the skin around it to create a barrier. These dressings have the lowest infection rates and fastest healing rates.
  • Biodegradable dressings. These dressings use a layer of cells naturally found in the body — such as tiny blood cells (platelets) or a protein found in skin cells (collagen) — to create a barrier over the wound. They're typically used when other dressings haven't worked.

Dressings for wet wounds

Options include:

  • Alginate. Created from seaweed and algae, these dressings are highly absorbent and don't stick to the wound. Silver alginate also protects against bacteria.
  • Foam. This synthetic silicone foam fills open wounds like a sponge and absorbs draining fluids.

When choosing a dressing, other considerations are:

  • Cost.
  • How easy a dressing is to use — including whether it sticks to your wound, which can be painful.
  • How well a dressing fits — for example, areas such as the armpit and groin can be awkward to bandage.

Promote healing

To cover your wounds and secure dressings without further injuring your skin:

  • Coat the area in petroleum jelly to prevent the dressing from sticking
  • Avoid tape and adhesives that could stick to your wound and cause further damage and pain
  • Wrap an elastic bandage around the dressing

You might need to change your dressings as you heal. But it's important not to irritate the wound, so your doctor may recommend you change the dressings only daily or every other day.

Keep an eye out for any signs of infection. Call your doctor if you develop a fever or notice significant swelling or pain, spreading redness, bleeding that won't stop, or drainage that isn't clear.

It may seem like a lot of work. But keeping your hidradenitis suppurativa wounds clean, covered and cared for can speed healing — allowing you to focus more on life, and less on your skin.

Dec. 29, 2018 See more In-depth