healing cut

How to heal cuts fast

A cut or wound is a break or opening in the skin. Your skin protects your body from germs. When the skin is broken, even during surgery, germs can enter and cause infection. Cuts often occur because of an accident or injury.

Types of wounds include:

  • Cuts
  • Scrapes
  • Puncture wounds
  • Burns
  • Pressure sores

A cut may be smooth or jagged. It may be near the surface of the skin or deeper.

Deep cuts can affect:

  • Tendons
  • Muscles
  • Ligaments
  • Nerves
  • Blood vessels
  • Bones

Minor wounds often heal easily, but all wounds need care to prevent infection. Keep your wound clean and dry at all times to help the healing process.

The deeper, larger, or dirtier a wound is, the more care it needs. That’s why a team of doctors and specially trained wound care nurses work together to monitor and treat serious wounds.

“Clean” cuts — those that aren’t contaminated with bacteria — have the lowest risk of infection, making them easier to care for. For example, the cut a surgeon makes on a person’s knee during ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) repair is likely to be a clean wound because the area is cleaned with an antibacterial solution before surgery — and it’s in a place where there’s a low risk of infection.

Dirty or infected cuts, like an abscess or gunshot wound, are a different story. They usually require special treatment and monitoring to prevent infection.

Sometimes a cut is clean but there’s a risk of infection because of where it is on the body. If the cut is in an area that has more bacteria — like the urinary tract, gastrointestinal system, or respiratory system — fluids and other contaminants could get into the wound and cause infection.

How do cuts heal – cut healing process

Wounds and cuts heal in stages 1. The smaller the cut, the quicker it will heal. The larger or deeper the cut, the longer it takes to heal. When you get a cut, scrape, or puncture, the wound will bleed.

  • The blood will start to clot within a few minutes or less and stop the bleeding.
  • The blood clots dry and form a scab, which protects the tissue underneath from germs.

Not all wounds bleed. For example, burns, some puncture wounds, and pressure sores do not bleed.

As the body does its healing work on the inside, a dry, temporary crust — a scab — forms over the wound on the outside. The scab’s job is to protect the wound as the damaged skin heals underneath.

Once the scab forms, your body’s immune system starts to protect the cut from infection.

Under the scab’s protective surface, new tissue forms. The body repairs damaged blood vessels and the skin makes collagen (a kind of tough, white protein fiber) to reconnect the broken tissue.

  • Inflammation is the body’s immune system kicking in to protect the wound from infection. During inflammation, for the first few days after the cut, the cut becomes slightly swollen, red or pink, and tender.
  • You also may see some clear fluid oozing from the wound. This fluid helps clean the area.
  • Blood vessels open in the area, so blood can bring oxygen and nutrients to the wound. Oxygen is essential for healing.
  • White blood cells help fight infection from germs and begin to repair the wound.
  • This stage takes about 2 to 5 days.

Tissue growth and rebuilding occur next.

  • Over the next 3 weeks or so, the body repairs broken blood vessels and new tissue grows.
  • Red blood cells help create collagen, which are tough, white fibers that form the foundation for new tissue.
  • The cut starts to fill in with new tissue, called granulation tissue.
  • New skin begins to form over this tissue.
  • As the cut heals, the edges pull inward and the cut gets smaller.

A scar forms and the wound becomes stronger.

  • As healing continues, you may notice that the area itches. After the scab falls off, the area may look stretched, red, and shiny.
  • The scar that forms will be smaller than the original wound. It will be less strong and less flexible than the surrounding skin.
  • Over time, the scar will fade and may disappear completely. This can take as long as 2 years. Some scars never go away completely.
  • Scars form because the new tissue grows back differently than the original tissue. If you only injured the top layer of skin, you will probably not have a scar.
  • With deeper cuts, you are more likely to have a scar.

When the work of healing is done, the scab dries up and falls off, leaving behind the repaired skin and, often, a scar. At this point, the scar will be almost 80-90% the strength of normal skin. It’ll take a few months for the scar to be back to 100% strength of normal skin.

Some people are more likely to scar than others. Some may have thick, unsightly scars called keloids. People with darker complexions are more likely to have keloids form.

Why do scars look different from normal skin ?

Our skin is made up of two proteins: elastin, which gives skin its flexibility, and collagen, which gives it strength. But because the body cannot create new elastin, scars are made entirely of collagen. So they’re tougher and less flexible than the skin around them.

How do I know if my cut infected or just healing ?

See your doctor right away if you have:

  • Redness, increased pain, or yellow or green pus, or excessive clear fluid around the injury. These are signs of infection.
  • The area around the wound is getting more swollen.
  • You see blood or pus draining from the wound.
  • There’s an expanding area of redness around the wound or red streaks on the skin around the wound.
  • Black edges around the injury. This is a sign of dead tissue.
  • Bleeding at the injury site that will not stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure.
  • Fever of 100°F (37.7°C) or higher for more than 4 hours.
  • Pain at the cut that will not go away, even after taking pain medicine or the pain radiates out beyond the wound area.
  • A cut that has come open or the stitches or staples have come out too soon.
  • You have swollen glands.
  • You have signs of dehydration, such as peeing less, dark urine, dry mouth, or sunken eyes.

Taking Care of Your Cut

Properly caring for your cut means keeping it clean and covered 2. This can help prevent infections and scarring.

  • For minor cuts, clean your wound with gentle soap and water. Cover the wound with a sterile bandage or other dressing.
  • For major cuts, follow your doctor’s instructions on how to care for your injury.
  • Avoid picking at or scratching the scab. This can interfere with healing and cause scarring.
  • Once the scar forms, some people think it helps to massage it with vitamin E or petroleum jelly. However, this is not proven to help prevent a scar or help it fade. DO NOT rub your scar or apply anything to it without talking with your doctor first.

Closing Serious Cuts and Wounds

If a cut is clean, a doctor will close it by stitching the edges together in two separate layers. The doctor will use dissolvable stitches to join the deeper layer of tissue under the skin. Then he or she will staple, tape, or stitch the skin over it.

Sometimes doctors use dissolvable stitches or tape to join the upper layer of skin as well as the lower layer. Otherwise, the doctor will remove any surface stitches or staples after about 7 to 10 days.

Doctors don’t always close a wound right away, though. If there’s a chance a wound is contaminated, they will leave it open to clean it out. Closing a contaminated wound can trap bacteria inside and lead to infection. When they’re sure there are no remaining bacteria or other contaminants, they will stitch or close the wound.

Sometimes, doctors decide it’s best not to sew up a cut at all. If someone has lost a lot of tissue (like after a serious accident), it’s often helpful to leave the wound open to heal through natural scar formation.

Caring for Serious Cuts and Wounds at Home

Serious wounds don’t heal overnight. It can take weeks for the body to build new tissue. So after you leave the hospital or doctor’s office, good home care is important to prevent infection and minimize scarring.

Because wounds can be so different, your doctor will give you instructions on how to take care of yourself after you go home from the hospital. In most cases, doctors will ask patients to do the following things:

  • Keep the wound covered with a clean dressing until there’s no more fluid draining from it. A doctor or nurse will give you instructions on how to change your dressing and how often.
  • Wait an average of 2-4 days after surgery before showering. Because each case is different, ask your nurse or doctor what to do before you can shower again.
    Avoid soaking in the bathtub or swimming until your next doctor visit. Dirt in the water could seep into the wound and contaminate it. Also, there’s a risk that a wound might pull apart if it gets too wet.
  • Don’t let pets near wounds.
  • Avoid picking or scratching scabs. A scab may itch as the skin underneath heals, but picking or scratching can rip the new skin underneath. The wound will take longer to heal and the scar it leaves may be worse.

Your bodies rely on vitamins and minerals to heal. Try to eat healthy foods — especially lots of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables and lean proteins — while your wound is healing. Drink plenty of water and eat high-fiber foods like whole grains to avoid constipation. (Constipation can be a side effect of pain medication.)

Your wound might heal quickly, but scars can take longer. For thick scars, try massaging the area with lotion or petroleum jelly. Doing this helps the collagen mingle with the elastin in the surrounding skin, decreasing some of the scarring. Ask your doctor or a wound care nurse if massaging the wound is a good idea before you try it.

Outlook (Prognosis) following a cut

When cared for properly, most cuts heal well, leaving only a small scar or none at all. With larger cuts, you are more likely to have a scar.

Certain factors can prevent cuts from healing or slow the process, such as:

  • Infection can make a wound larger and take longer to heal.
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are likely to have wounds that won’t heal, which are also called chronic wounds.
  • Poor blood flow due to clogged arteries (arteriosclerosis) or conditions such as varicose veins.
  • Obesity increases the risk of infection after surgery. Being overweight can also put tension on stitches, which can make them break open.
  • Age. In general, older adults heal more slowly than younger people.
  • Heavy alcohol use can slow healing and increase the risk for infection and complications after surgery.
  • Stress may cause you to not get enough sleep, eat poorly, and smoke or drink more, which can interfere with healing.
  • Medicines such as corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and some chemotherapy drugs can slow healing.
  • Smoking can delay healing after surgery. It also increases the risk for complications such as infection and wounds breaking open.

Cuts that are slow to heal may need extra care from your health care provider.

  1. Leong M, Phillips LG. Wound healing. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 6.[]
  2. Perry AG, Potter PA, Ostendorf V. Wound care and irrigations. In: Perry AG, Potter PA, Ostendorf V, eds. Clinical Nursing Skills and Techniques. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:chap 38.[]
Health Jade Team

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