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A surgical cut would take its own due course of time to heal. However, while you are resting at home post a surgical procedure, it is essential that you keep a check on whether the cut where the stitch has been made is on the right track of healing or not. In case there are any symptoms of an infection occurring then immediate medical attention might be required so that complications do not arise.
What Are The Signs Of An Infection?
Mostly an infected stitch would begin with the general signs of an infection approaching - feeling of tiredness and an overall feeling of being unwell. Signs of not feeling good or having flu could indicate a possible infection of a stitch.
The following are some of the common signs of an infected stitch:
• Redness and swelling in the area of the stitches. The skin around the infection might be hot to touch.
• Fever that accompanies other flu-like signs.
• Pain and tenderness in the infected stitch region.
• Swollen lymph nodes.
• Blood or pus that leaks out from the stitches. There could be a foul odour as well.
This is an obvious symptom of an infected stitch.
Possible Causes Of Infection In The Sutures
The stitches that are placed after skin has been cut post a surgical barrier can act as a wound that allows the germs to enter the body. This makes you prone to the development of an infection.
Bacteria cause the infection of stitches. The most common types of bacteria that cause the wound to get infected belong to the following species: Streptococcus, Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus.
The following factors could also increase the risk of developing an infected stitch:
• If the wound has not been cleaned properly prior to the stitches
• If the object causing the wound had germs
• If you belong to the elderly category and are overweight
• If the surgical procedure has lasted more than two hours
• If you have diabetes
• If you smoke
• If sanitization was not taken care of prior to the surgical procedure
• If the wound is extremely deep
• If you have a weak immune system
What Happens If Stitches Get Infected?
Apart from the extreme pain and swelling, when infected stitches are left untreated, they could lead to severe complications.
If not treated, infected stitches can cause the infection to spread to other parts of your skin and body. There could be complications such as cellulitis, sepsis or abscess formation.
How To Treat Infected Stitches?
You should see a doctor immediately once you start seeing any of the symptoms of infected stitches.
The treatment of the infected stitches would ideally begin with your doctor taking a sample of the discharge from the infected site. This is done to examine if bacteria has been causing infection in the region of the stitch.
If the presence of bacterial infection is confirmed, then your doctor would proceed to perform an antibiotic susceptibility testing. This is done to determine as to which antibiotic would be most effective in treating the infection of the stitch.
In case a fungal infection is suspected, then other tests including cultural techniques would be done.
In case of mild infections that are localized, an antibiotic cream for local application could cure the infection in a few days time. However, if the infection is quite severe or has affected a large area, then your doctor would prescribe an oral antibiotic. The antibiotic that should be prescribed is determined with the help of the antibiotic susceptibility testing.
Intravenous antibiotics might be required for very severe infections. If the infection does not seem to heal, then the dead or dying tissue would need to be removed through a surgical procedure.
How To Prevent Stitches From Getting Infected?
You can follow the below-mentioned steps to prevent a stitch/wound from getting infected:
• Keep the stitches clean. Usually a bandage is placed immediately after a stitch. Follow your doctor's instruction correctly as to when you should remove the bandage. You should use warm water and soap to clean the stitches. Pat dry using a clean towel.
• Keep your stitches dry always. Avoid getting the stitches wet for at least a day post the surgical procedure. Pat your stitches dry after a bath. Avoid swimming or soaking in a tub.
• Do not touch the stitches. However, if you need to touch them, ensure that your hands are clean. Do not scratch or pick at the stitches. Your fingernails usually have bacteria living under them. Scratching the stitches could lead to infection.
• Do not indulge in strenuous activities. Exercising could strain the stitches, which could lead to them tearing. Consult your doctor to know when it would be suitable to return to normal physical activities.