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What is Hydrocolloid? Your Complete Guide


Marc Kaplan |

In 2019, 2.8 million non-fatal injuries or illnesses occurred in US private workplaces. In the manufacturing sector alone, 15,380 cases involved cuts, lacerations, or punctures. Many of these led to workers having to spend days away from work.

A separate 2018 study found that 8.2 million Medicare patients also suffered from wounds. Their treatments resulted in an estimated $28.1 to a staggering $96.8 billion. Surgical wounds and diabetic foot ulcers were the top two drivers of such high costs.

The good news is that hydrocolloid dressings can help treat many of these wounds. Many studies found these products to help trigger faster recovery from such trauma.

What exactly are hydrocolloids, though? What benefits do they offer that make them useful for wound treatment?

We'll answer all these questions in this guide, so be sure to read on!

What Is Hydrocolloid?

A hydrocolloid is a combination of a colloid (a particle or substance) and water (hydro). A few examples of colloids are emulsions, gels, and gums. The food sector is one of the biggest users of colloids (think gelatin as in Jell-O).

In the medical industry, hydrocolloids often take the form of wound dressings. They're available as bandages, pastes, powders, and wafers.

How Do Hydrocolloid Dressings Work?

Hydrocolloid dressings contain agents that form a gel when exposed to wound fluids. The jelly-like mass then helps create a moist environment for the wound to heal in. Their hydrophilic particles also allow them to absorb exudates (liquids "exuded" by wounds).

In hydrocolloid bandages, the main "ingredients" are hydrocolloids and an adhesive carrier. This allows the dressings to become self-adhesive.

By contrast, hydrocolloid pastes don't use adhesive sheets to work. You simply apply them straight to the wound to fill up the cavity.

While very absorbent, hydrocolloid products will still become saturated over time. When this happens, some fluids may leak out of the dressing. It’s important to replace the dressing as soon as (or before) this happens.

Which Injuries Are Hydrocolloids Best For?

You can use these dressings on wounds with light to moderate exudates. That's why doctors recommend them as a treatment for pressure sores. They can also help treat traumatic wounds and minor burn or scald injuries.

One study even found hydrocolloid dressings effective for diaper rash. The infants treated with hydrocolloids had the fastest healing rate. The parents of the hydrocolloid-treated babies also had the highest nursing satisfaction rate.

How Do Hydrocolloid Dressings Help in Wound Treatment?

Hydrocolloids can help by providing a moist environment to speed up wound healing. They also act as a barrier against external factors that may infect the wound. Moreover, they can help ease the pain that usually comes with skin injuries.

Faster Wound Healing

According to health experts, wounds tend to heal faster in moist environments. In this case, moisture can help keep the injured areas from becoming dehydrated. It also appears to boost "angiogenesis," a process wherein new blood vessels get formed.

Moisture can also help improve collagen synthesis in wounds. This is crucial to wound healing as the protein collagen attracts fibroblasts. Fibroblasts, in turn, are cells in connective tissues that provide structure to tissues.

So, by enhancing collagen synthesis, moisture can help speed up new tissue growth.

This is one way that hydrocolloids, which contain wounds in a moist environment, can help. In fact, researchers say that they can decrease healing times by up to 40%. That's in comparison to traditional treatments, such as simply cleaning wounds.

So, if your wounds tend to heal a little slower, it's a good idea to try hydrocolloid dressings.

May Help Lower Risk of Infections

Did you know that the human skin harbors about 1,000 different species of bacteria? While many of these are beneficial, others are "pathogenic" or disease-causing. This is why even minor wounds that don't get treated right away can become infected.

Hydrocolloid dressings can help cut the risk of infections as they are impermeable. This nature allows them to cover the wound and protect it from external factors. You can even wash or shower with these dressings still applied.

Reduce Wound Treatment Costs

How long you need to replace a hydrocolloid dressing depends on the level of exudates. You need to replace them as soon as they get saturated with wound fluids. However, there are hydrocolloid dressings you can leave in place for four to seven days.

This longevity can help reduce the need for frequent dressing replacement. As a result, they can help cut your wound treatment costs.

Also, remember that hydrocolloids can speed up the wound healing process. The faster your skin injuries heal, the less you'd spend on treating them.

Can Help Make Injuries Less Painful

Studies suggest that hydrocolloid dressings can also relieve pain caused by wounds. One way they can do so is by facilitating faster wound healing. They're also less obtrusive than traditional bandages.

Another way that hydrocolloids can ease wound pain is by limiting dressing changes. Adhesives can be painful to remove, so just imagine how bad things can get if you need to keep changing bandages. It's in this way that longer-lasting hydrocolloid products can reduce wound pain incidents.

Boost Autolytic Debridement

Some types of hydrocolloid dressings also help enhance autolytic debridement. Autolytic debridement uses the body's enzymes and fluids to soften "bad" tissues. Its goal is to remove necrotic or dead tissues and foreign substances from wounds.

For this reason, patients can also use hydrocolloids for treating diabetes wounds. After all, foot ulcers need a moist environment to heal themselves up. They're also prone to infections, so hydrocolloids can act as an extra layer of protection.

Help Your Wounds Heal Faster With Hydrocolloid Dressings

As you can see, hydrocolloid dressings can help treat various wounds, from cuts to diaper rash. They can also speed up the healing process itself, which leads to less pain and costs. Plus, their protective barrier can help reduce the risks of wound infections.

All that should be enough reason to use hydrocolloids for your wound care regimen.

Ready to help your wounds heal faster and cause less pain? Then please feel free to browse our wide selection of wound care products!