Everyone gets a wound once in a while, but it’s important to keep a vigilant eye on them and on overall health, said Kelly Byrd-Jenkins, the director of wound care at Peterson Health.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure — prevention is the key,” Byrd-Jenkins said. “Taking really good care of yourself and routine care by your primary care doctor is big, and exercise and good nutrition.”
As people age, the importance of inspecting oneself becomes more and more important, Byrd-Jenkins said. It’s also especially important to inspect feet when suffering from diabetes.
“People suffering from diabetes want to do daily foot inspections to make sure there are no cracks or injuries from their shoes,” she said. “Those folks can tend to have a loss of feeling to their feet, so they can’t always count on pain to be there to warn that they’ve got something happening.”
Peterson’s wound care department sees an average of 35 to 40 patients per day who suffer from what’s called a chronic non-healing wound, which is often caused by complications from diseases such as diabetes, vascular disease or previous radiation treatment, Byrd-Jenkins said.
One type of non-healing wound is called a pressure ulcer, or what some might know by the out-dated term, bed sores. The early stages show a highly painful, tender red spot that won’t go away.
“Pressure ulcers occur when there’s extended periods of time
without movement either in a chair or in a bed and the soft tissues including the skin are trapped between bone and a hard surface,” Byrd-Jenkins said. “When that happens, the blood flow is reduced in the area and it leads to a breakdown of skin and any of the soft tissues around it.”
The hospital has made a lot of recent efforts to improve their wound care facilities, like renovating the center to have four exam rooms, getting new mattresses that help with pressure ulcers and state-of-the-art equipment, Byrd-Jenkins said. It also strives to have the best possible staff, with both board-certified doctors and nurses.
A recent service the hospital has started to provide is telemedicine, which allows for the provision of medical care through communication technology. Byrd-Jenkins said they started providing this service because of a lack of infectious disease service.
“What we’ve noticed with some of the patients that we’ve seen needing a specialist to deal with severe infections is that when we report them to infectious disease doctors, (but) the closest ones are typically in San Antonio,” she said. “A lot of times those patients have to wait a month, sometimes two months to get into those practices.”
Byrd-Jenkins added that telemedicine is rare to find in wound care centers.
But what Byrd-Jenkins said is important to not needing these services is making sure to communicate with primary care doctors.
“Primary care doctors are good at managing all of the contributing factors that make wounds difficult to heal — things like blood pressure regulation, blood sugar control,” she said. “Those primary care doctors have trust in us and know when a specialist’s care is required and they’re very quick to make sure that that patient gets to us.”