Study of the Day: Another Possible Cause for Wounds That Don't Heal

Research suggests that, though most injuries that take time to improve are related to diabetes, autoimmune diseases may also be a culprit

main Anatoliy Samara shutterstock_85065814.jpg

PROBLEM: Millions suffer from injuries that don't heal, and most of these cases are due to diabetes, a disease that damages blood vessels and inhibits normal skin repair. Georgetown rheumatologist Victoria Shanmugam began noticing in her patients with autoimmune diseases, however, that their recovery times from open wounds were at times even longer than those of diabetes patients.

METHODOLOGY: Georgetown University Medical Center researchers led by Shanmugam conducted a chart review of people who sought care at a high-volume wound clinic to determine the prevalence of autoimmune diseases. The study included 340 patients with open wounds, which mostly involved leg ulcers that were treated during a three-month period in 2009.

RESULTS: Nearly half of the patients in the review had diabetes and almost a quarter had an underlying autoimmune disease. The 78 patients who had issues with their immune systems had either rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or livedoid vasculopathy, a type of vascular disease.

CONCLUSION: Autoimmune diseases may be another possible underlying cause of wounds that don't heal.

IMPLICATION: Shanmugam hopes doctors would consider the link she found between autoimmune diseases and injuries in their practice. While it is much too invasive and costly to recommend that all patients with wounds be tested for autoimmune diseases, she says in a statement, "If a doctor has a patient with a leg ulcer that won't heal after three or four months and they have done all the appropriate treatments, I hope they will look for the presence of an autoimmune disorder."

SOURCE: The study, "A Higher Than Expected Prevalence of Autoimmune Disease in a Cohort of Patients With Recalcitrant Leg Ulcers," will be presented tomorrow in Chicago at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

Image: Anatoliy Samara/Shutterstock.

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Health

Just In