Wound care involves a multifaceted approach to healing, and one of the common complications that can impede the recovery process is maceration. Maceration is a condition that occurs when a wound experiences excessive moisture, leading to the softening and breaking down of the surrounding skin. Let’s take a look at what wound maceration is, how it can be treated and what you can do to help prevent the condition.

What is Maceration?

hand with macerated skinMaceration in wounds refers to the softening and breakdown of skin due to excess moisture. When a wound is exposed to prolonged moisture, it disrupts the skin’s natural barrier, causing it to become fragile and susceptible to damage. This condition is commonly seen in wounds that are constantly exposed to moisture, such as incontinence-related wounds, chronic wounds, or areas covered by dressings that retain moisture.

What Causes Maceration in Wounds?

Several factors contribute to the development of wound maceration:

  • Prolonged Exposure to Moisture: Wounds that remain consistently moist due to factors like incontinence, sweating, or improperly applied dressings that create an environment conducive to maceration.
  • Inadequate Wound Drainage: Wounds that do not have proper drainage may accumulate excess fluids, leading to maceration.
  • Inappropriate Wound Dressings: Using dressings that do not effectively manage moisture levels or are not changed regularly can exacerbate maceration.
  • Body Fluids: Excessive moisture from bodily fluids like sweat or urine can lead to maceration, particularly in areas where skin-to-skin contact occurs.

Is Maceration Dangerous?

While maceration itself may not be immediately life-threatening, it can significantly impede the wound healing process and increase the risk of infection. Macerated skin becomes fragile, more susceptible to injury, and less effective as a protective barrier against harmful microorganisms. If left untreated, maceration can lead to delayed wound healing, chronic wounds, and potential complications such as infection, inflammation, and pain.

Excoriation vs. Maceration

Excoriation and maceration are often intertwined due to their similarities, but they represent distinct conditions. Excoriation refers to the mechanical injury of the skin caused by scratching, rubbing, or other physical means. Excoriation often occurs on intact skin and can lead to wounds. On the other hand, as referenced above, maceration is the softening and breakdown of skin due to prolonged exposure to moisture, often happening in or around existing wounds.

Maceration Treatment and Wound Care

specialist dressing a macerated woundEffective treatment for wound maceration involves several key steps:

  • Gentle Cleansing: Thoroughly cleaning the affected area with a mild, pH-balanced cleanser to remove excess moisture and debris without causing further damage to the fragile skin.
  • Wound Dressing Selection: Choosing appropriate dressings that manage moisture levels effectively and promote a moist wound-healing environment. Advanced dressings like hydrocolloids or hydrogels can help maintain the right balance of moisture.
  • Regular Wound Inspection: Monitoring the wound regularly for signs of improvement or deterioration. If there are any concerning changes in the wound’s appearance or if it not getting better consult a wound care specialist.
  • Address Underlying Causes: Treating the underlying issues causing the excess moisture, such as incontinence, excessive sweating, or poor wound drainage.

Can Wound Maceration Be Prevented?

Preventing wound maceration involves a proactive approach to managing moisture levels. Some approaches can include:

  • Proper Wound Dressing: Selecting dressings that effectively manage moisture and changing them regularly according to the wound’s needs.
  • Optimize Wound Drainage: Ensuring adequate wound drainage to prevent fluid accumulation.
  • Skin Protection: Using protective barriers or creams to safeguard the skin from excess moisture, especially in areas prone to maceration.
  • Frequent Skin Inspection: Regularly monitoring the skin for any signs of maceration, and taking prompt action if it’s detected.

Understanding maceration is crucial for effective wound care management and minimizing the risks of potential complications. Of course, it’s always best to consult with a wound care specialist for personalized guidance in managing wound maceration and to facilitate optimal care and healing.

If you have any questions about the healing process or have suffered a wound that isn’t recovering properly the specialized team at West Coast Wound Center can help. Book an appointment today.



2501 W Burbank Blvd #200, Burbank, CA 91505

Phone: (818) 856-9535

Fax: (818) 979-0593