What are the most common symptoms of wound infection?

Any skin lesion is at risk of becoming infected. An infection can occur when bacteria from the environment enter an open wound, such as a scratch, cut, scrape, or puncture wound. While deep cuts that are not properly cleaned and dressed are at the highest risk of infection, even small scratches that have been well cared for can become infected. Some common symptoms of wound infection are swelling, redness, discharge, and pain. These wound infection symptoms, if left untreated, could lead to a more serious infection.

Swelling is one of the most common symptoms of wound infection. While some swelling around the wound area is sometimes normal, any swelling that lasts more than three to five days can be a sign of infection. If the swelling is due to a local infection, it will go past the wound area and look very red. The swelling caused by an infection is also usually hot or warm to the touch.

Some redness around the wound site is often typical of a less serious infection. However, red streaks leaking from the wound site into the lymph nodes may be a sign of a more serious infection. Lymphangitis is infection of the lymphatic vessels, often caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria. If this scratching is observed as one of the symptoms of wound infection in an individual, immediate medical attention is strongly recommended. This type of infection, if not treated quickly, can lead to much more serious and possibly life-threatening complications, such as sepsis.

Any type of discharge from the wound site is often another common symptom that a wound has become infected. This discharge, often called pus, can be cloudy, yellowish or greenish, and can have a very unpleasant odor. It may seem quite unpleasant, but this substance is usually a combination of dead cells, white blood cells, and bacteria. It is the body's way of trying to expel the infection from the body, and it is important that it drains. Pus that gets trapped under the surface of the skin can form an abscess, which often needs to be drained by a doctor.

Pain around the wound site is another of the most common symptoms of wound infection. This may feel like a tenderness or burning pain in and around the wound site. Some pain or tenderness is expected with many types of wounds, but pain that intensifies rather than lessens over time is usually a sign of infection. The pain is often accompanied by swelling, redness, and pus.

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