What is a wound?

Taken from the Latin word plaga, a wound is a lesion which appears with a breakage in the skin. It can occur following injury, or be the result of a progressive pathological process or underlying disease.

There are two categories of wounds:

  • Acute wounds

    They can be described as wounds that appear suddenly; such as burns and post-operative wounds related to surgery, or traumatic wounds, which can look like cuts, lacerations, bites, scratches, or can result from extreme weather conditions, as in the case of frostbite.

    For these acute wounds, the physiological healing process takes between two and four week.

  • Chronic wounds

    These wounds (leg ulcers, pressure ulcers or diabetic foot ulcers) are most often the result of an underlying disease or change in the patient’s general condition which delays the healing process. Their treatment requires local wound care, but also treatment of the underlying condition, which may be venous or arterial insufficiency, diabetes, or prolonged immobilisation associated with undernutrition and/or incontinence. These wounds take longer to heal (up to 210 days on average1) and are often recurring, which is why it is important to prevent relapse, especially in the case of venous leg ulcers. Age is also a risk factor for the appearance of wounds (due to the long progression of an underlying disease) and a less effective healing process.

Regardless of the level of damage to the various skin layers, each wound, acute or chronic, requires appropriate care and management. In effect, the slightest breakage in the skin exposes the human body to bacterial contamination and therefore to a risk of infection.

How to manage a wound?

  • Clean the wound with water, which should preferably be warm. Remove any foreign bodies at the surface or even in the wound (gravel, soil, pieces of glass, metal splinters etc.)
  • If the tissue is particularly red around the edges of an acute wound; if there is a sensation of heat (sign of local inflammation) or it is yellow/green (sign of the presence of pus); if the wound is weeping considerably; if the wound gives off an unpleasant smell; or if fever is also present, these could be signs of a local infection which should be treated by a healthcare professional.
  • You should see your doctor if you have a chronic wound of any type, which occurs or persists.


Each square centimetre of human skin contains 2.4 metres of blood vessels, mainly found in the dermis and the hypodermis. These layers are the deepest layers of the skin.

(1) Report for the Minister of Social Security and the French Parliament on the progression in health insurance expenditure and revenue in 2014 (Law of 13 August 2004) – July 2013.