Bedsores, commonly known as pressure sores, pressure ulcers, and decubitus ulcers, is a result of too much friction and unalleviated weight or pressure on one area of the body especially around the elbows, heels, knees, coccyx, ankles, and other bony parts of the body.
Bedsores most likely to develop in people who have a medical condition that has limitations in changing positions such as paralysis, and those individuals who spend extended periods confined to a bed or a chair.
Pressure sores are often painful and quite a nuisance for those people who suffer from it. So, if you’re a patient or you know someone who must remain in bed or wheelchair, this article will provide you information about bedsores and how to deal with it.
Bedsores can develop in some individuals who undergo constant pressure on their bodies and range from light reddening to agonizing craters that expand into the muscle and bones.
There are four classified stages of bedsores which depend on the severity of the skin damage. The following are the symptoms for each stage.
Stage 1: For people with white or pale skin, a constant patch of red skin develops. When you press it, it does not turn white. For people with dark skin, a red, purple, or blue patch develops which is possibly harder to detect. Itchiness may also occur.
Stage 2: An abrasion or a painful open sore develops in the injured skin blisters. It does not spread through the skin’s entire thickness. An area of red or purple discoloration surrounds it with mild swelling or oozing.
Stage 3: The ulcer develops into a crater-like appearance caused by tissue damage under the surface of the skin.
Stage 4: The crater further extends until it reaches the bone, joint, muscle, or tendon. There are severe skin and tissue damage due to possible infection.
Other Risk Factors Contributing Bedsores
Aside from the primary causes of bedsore which are the friction and pressure on the skin, here are following factors that can also contribute to it:
Age– The skin becomes more fragile with age. It is one of the reasons why bedsores are more common to the elderly particularly those who are over the age of 85.
Lack of Movement– The skin against the bed can’t have a constant oxygen and nutrient supply to the skin, especially for people who are unable to move even with minimal movements. Unkempt sheets can also damage the skin due to gradual friction which causes small tears which ultimately result in bed sores.
When left untreated, these sores become life-threatening as these wounds are prone to infection. In severe cases, bacteria from these wounds develop an immunity to a lot of antibiotics.
Moisture – The sliding across the bed sheets done by a person who lies on the bed for an extended period can cause friction and shearing. It can stretch the skin which causes the blood vessels to twitch, and poor circulation of blood may damage the skin.
Staying in place for a long time can cause an inadequate flow of blood to the different parts of the body. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, bedsores can develop if there’s a discontinuation of blood flow for more than two to three hours.
Lack of Sensation– Nerve problems and neuropathic conditions cause people to have a decrease in sensation. A person may be unable to feel any discomfort or pain and might not notice the continued pressure on the skin.
Malnutrition – Lack of vitamins, minerals, and proteins in the body can cause bedsores. For patients who are bedridden, proper nutrition is important to develop the body’s capabilities of warding off infection. A person with less resistance to bacteria and other infections make it easier for them to develop bedsores.
Signs of Infection
Bedsores are highly susceptible to infection because of the bacteria that can enter through the broken skin, especially in an environment contaminated with feces, urine, and without proper hygiene. Here are the signs of infection in bedsore.
- The smell of a foul odor
- tenderness, increased skin redness, and heat around the affected area
- draining pus from the bedsore
Start treating bedsore by reducing the cause of friction and pressure.
- Turn positions more often– Reposition the person’s body from time to time. Turn positions depending on the surface quality and the person’s medical condition. For individuals who use wheelchairs, try changing position after an hour or shift the weight every fifteen minutes.
- Use a support surface– Choose the right piece of bed, mattresses, cushions, and other beddings where the person lies or sleeps. Use them in a way that can protect the exposed skin.
According to the prognosis of Harvard Health Publications of Harvard Medical School, most stage 2 bedsores can be treated within a few weeks using the simple bedside treatments.
However, these methods cannot always treat large pressure sores like in stage three and stage four bedsores and often needs reconstructive surgery to repair the skin damage.
Bedsores do not only develop because of neglected needs. They can still occur even with the best nutrition and excellent medical condition. Here are the ways that can help prevent the formation of bedsores.
- Early detection– inspect the person’s skin at least once a day to avoid any worsening of redness.
- Eat well– eat food that is rich in vitamins, calories, proteins, and minerals.
- Regular exercise– simple exercises can improve healing and increase blood flow. For people who are bedridden, stretching while lying can help.
According to research, there is an estimated range of 16.6% up to 20% of the prevalence of pressure ulcers in intensive care units (ICU) in the United States.
Bedsores are curable, but it needs immediate treatment to prevent further critical complications. In fact, bedsores or pressure ulcers are easily dealt with when patients are provided proper hygiene, adequate attention, and constant motion exercises to prevent stagnation. With the help of other proper measures and medical professionals, patients can minimize the risk of developing pressure ulcers.
Rachel Minahan is a researcher who likes to gather ideas in the field of medicine, health, and lifestyle. Rachel is a passionate wellness advocate who loves to inspire people for the further improvement of quality health care.