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Overview: What are chronic wounds/ulcers?

The information in this section has been gathered from existing peer-reviewed and other literature and has been reviewed by expert dermatologists on the CSPA Medical Advisory Board.

Chronic wounds/ulcers are open areas of the skin that do not heal despite weeks of careful treatment. And even when these wounds are successfully treated, they tend to recur.

Acute wounds typically heal in one to three weeks in a dynamic process that restores the integrity and function of the skin and the underlying tissue. If a wound does not heal in four to 12 weeks, it is considered chronic. With any wound, natural healing occurs in clearly defined stages, but chronic wounds get stuck at one of the stages and cannot get past it.


Chronic wounds and ulcers are caused by poor circulation, either through cardiovascular issues or external pressure from a bed or wheelchair. People affected by chronic wounds are typically sedentary, often bedridden, wheelchair-bound and/or have diabetes. Good circulation requires regular bodily movement such as going for a walk. Chronic wound types include:

  • Pressure ulcers (also known as bed sores)
  • Diabetic foot ulcers
  • Leg ulcers (venous stasis and arterial ulcers)
  • Ulcers resulting from blood disorders

Looking Deeper

Poor circulation causes local tissue inflammation, which ultimately leads to the breakdown of that tissue. At the beginning, only internal tissue is damaged, but if the underlying circulatory problem is not addressed, external ulceration will occur.


Fast Facts

  • About 25 per cent of people in health-care institutions in Canada have a pressure ulcer at any given time.
  • One to two per cent of adults will acquire a venous leg ulcer in their lifetime.
  • Approximately 15 per cent of people with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer.


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