A gel dressing is a dressing with an integrated gel. It may be adhesive or designed for use with medical tape which can be used to fix the dressing in place. Such dressings have been developed for a variety of purposes, ranging from treating fresh burn wounds to reducing the size of scars and keloids. Some drug stores carry gel dressings and a wider assortment are available through medical catalogs, including dressings which have medicated gels designed for specific types of wound care.
One use for a gel dressing can be in a situation where a wound needs to be kept hydrated. The gel can help to retain moisture, reducing the risk that a wound will dry up. Gels can also absorb wound exudate so that materials such as pus and lymph are not left sitting on the surface of a wound, but are instead wicked away into the bandage. A gel dressing can also be used as waterproof or shock absorbent material to protect a wound from water, chafing garments, and other hazards.
Other gel dressings may be treated with agents which are designed to resist bacterial, viral, or chemical growth. These dressings may be used when there are concerns about infection. Using an antibacterial dressing, for example, will reduce the risk of infection and promote rapid healing. These products may be available by prescription only in some formulations due to concerns about the unnecessary use of antibiotic products. For people who are trying to reduce the size of scars, specialized gel dressings may be applied to put pressure on the scar and encourage it to shrink.
In burn treatment, the Debrase® Gel Dressing developed by MediWound is a rather unique type of dressing. It contains a compound which debrides burn wounds, dissolving dead tissue and leaving healthy living tissue behind. The gel dressing can be applied for several hours and then removed, and the debrided tissue can be gently scraped away. This method of debridement is considerably less painful than surgical cleaning of burn wounds.
Different wounds require different approaches to treatment, depending on how the wound was sustained, where the wound is located, the general health of the patient, and environmental factors which might hinder healing. For injuries which require medical attention, a doctor may recommend a particular type of dressing and it is generally advisable to follow that recommendation. Gel dressings recommended by doctors may be available through the doctor's office or drug store, and can also be applied by a doctor or nurse.