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Painful Scars

Why is my incision scar still so painful?

Question

After surgery for varicose veins a year ago, I had an unpleasant discharge and pain from the incision in my groin. This continued for three months, and I ended up with an abscess. That ruptured and subsided but the pain - sometimes stabbing, sometimes a dull ache - continues at points along the scar. Painful red lumps have formed four times now, with a new one appearing this week. My doctor won't give the antibiotics, saying that the scar will heal "eventually".

Answer

From what you describe, it seems there is some low-grade infection under the scar. Normally, white blood cells called phagocytes rush to the site of infection to devour the bacteria and digest them. In the battle with the bacteria, many phagocytes die, forming thick pus - your unpleasant discharge. (Any dead tissue smells because it is rotting - think of gangrene).

The pus that accumulates under the skin must be expelled because it is toxic to the body. So the enzymes in it soften up the surrounding tissue - in your case, the scar - and bore a tunnel through the point of least resistance until they reach the surface. Then the pus can be forced out that's the abscess. This eases the pain as the pressure of the swelling on the surrounding nerve endings is relieved. When the pus is released, the empty space is filled with healthy tissue and - usually - the problem is totally healed.

In your case, however, there seem to be several small pockets of infection occurring along the scar, due, I suspect t o your immune system failing to deal with the residual infection. Normally, once the pus has been expelled and the strain removed from the body, the immune system is able to repair the damage.

Sometimes, however, when the bacteria are virulent and the infection is chronic, the body realises that it can't deal with the situation. It then forms a thick fibrous wall around the site of the infection – a cyst - so that it doesn't invade the bloodstream and cause fever and discomfort. As the pus increases, the pressure in the cyst builds up, resulting in pain. When the cyst is full, it bores a hole in the scar and throws out its contents.

Although the cyst is nature's way of containing the infection near the skin surface and protecting the body, it also means that little or no antibiotic can ever penetrate the cyst's thick wall to attack the bacteria. So the infection lives safely and comfortably in your scar while you have to suffer. I feel you should consult a doctor or surgeon to see if the source of the infection can be removed.

If you want to give nature a chance, you could try the following simple measures:

  • Eat fresh salads and non-citrus fruits (citrus fruit may cause acidity which generally slows healing and causes pain).
  • Drink fresh (non-citrus) fruit and vegetable juices.
  • Drink plenty of still, pure water between meals – at least 1.5 liters daily.
  • Avoid yeast products such bread, Marmite and beer.
  • To boost the immune system, take the Ayurvedic remedy Bioprash: one tablespoon, with manuka honey or a little milk, after breakfast for three months.
  • Take a good multivitamin and mineral such as One A Day daily for two months.
  • Take zinc citrate, every other day for two months.
  • Consult a homoeopath, if possible; if not, try Hepar sulph 30 two three times a day for one week. This helps to heal a chronic abscess.
  • Apply Betadine (iodine tincture) on the scar every day for ten days. This old-fashioned but effective antibacterial preparation is available from chemists. Apply it soon after the pus comes out the tunnels that bring the pus out may take the iodine in.
  • Have a weekly full body massage to boost your energy.
  • Walk every day in the fresh air.
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