CHRONIC wounds are Australia’s ‘hidden affliction’ costing the health system around $3 billion a year, says peak body Wounds Australia
It is urging people at risk, particularly Australians over the age of 65 – to seek health care advice about chronic wound symptoms and management.
Chronic wounds are cuts or breaks in the skin that don’t show signs of healing within 30 days; or that keep recurring.
The number of sufferers is expected to soar due to Australia’s ageing population because people aged 65 and over are most at risk.
Although chronic wounds can be healed by wound care specialists, they often go untreated as many people don’t recognise when they have a chronic wound or know to seek treatment.
Wounds Australia Chief Executive Anne Buck says it is important for people to start recognising and talking about any wounds that haven’t healed.
“Chronic wounds are a hidden affliction in Australia and must be recognised as a serious health issue to safeguard our ageing population,” said Ms Buck.
People who don’t realise they have a chronic wound can suffer without treatment for years.
David Templeman lived unknowingly with a chronic wound for most of his life, after injuring his leg playing football in 1970.
While David assumed it was a minor injury, his leg continued to bother him. But it wasn't until February 2017 when he sought treatment after a major flare up in the same spot that he discovered he'd been living with a venous leg ulcer – which can be treated and healed.
“I wish I knew to ask the question ‘is this a chronic wound?’" said David. "My one piece of advice is that you shouldn’t suffer in silence – if a wound doesn’t show signs of healing within four weeks, you need to treat it seriously and seek appropriate medical assistance.”
As part of Wound Awareness Week July 15 - 21, Wounds Australia is calling on people aged 65 and older to ‘Talk About Wounds’: encouraging conversations with their health care professionals so they can understand what the wound warning signs are and what action to take if they have a chronic wound.
“Many chronic wound sufferers experience physical, emotional, and social health barriers as the wounds stop them from enjoying the activities they normally do. This also causes financial insecurity for most because ongoing wound management is costly for the individual and, if not treated correctly, can cause further medical issues,” said Ms Buck.
Research has estimated the cost per individual for wound management– such as out of pocket expenses, medications, and dressings – is between $86 to $340 per month depending on how severe the wound is.