Hidden autoimmune disease often prevents healing: study

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Dramatic drop in hospital inpatient readmissions cannot be explained by a shift to observation stays
Dramatic drop in hospital inpatient readmissions cannot be explained by a shift to observation stays
Residents with wounds that won't heal also might have undiagnosed immune system problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, according to investigators at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington.

Victoria Shanmugam, M.D.,  who led the research team, said she hoped the findings would lead to a greater awareness among patients and general practitioners of the implications of slow would healing.

“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,” she said.

Such diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (also known as “lupus”) and psoriasis.

Researchers analyzed medical records of 340 patients who had an open wound — usually a leg ulcer — over a three-month period during 2009. They discovered that nearly one in four of these patients had an autoimmune disease. Nearly half had diabetes mellitus, which is linked with poor wound healing.

They also found that patients with autoimmune diseases tended to have much larger, more painful wounds than their counterparts with healthy immune systems. Wounds in people with autoimmune diseases also took much longer to heal — 14.6 months, on average, compared with 10.3 months.

Full findings appear in the Dec. 14 edition of the International Wound Journal.