Preventing Bed Sores
If you or a loved one have ever been hospitalized, you realize the fear associated with bed sores. We aim to take the mystery, and the fear, from bed sores. Let's discuss what bed sores are, their causes, consequences of non-treatment, the healing process, location, symptoms, treatments, and their prevention.
What Are Bed Sores?
Bed sores have also been called pressure points. They occur when someone bedridden, unconscious, or otherwise unable to move, can't sense pain.
When skin is under constant pressure, things such as sitting in a wheelchair, lying in the same position in bed, or even wearing a cast for a long time, ulcers can form. These ulcers are more commonly referred to as bed sores. Pressure from a static position is the most basic explanation of how bed sores are caused.
What Causes Bed Sores?
Bed sores are caused by a lack of movement, but it's more complicated than that. Blood flow is restricted, and portions of the skin are cut off from blood flow for an extended period. This happens over two or three hours, not mere minutes.
The first indication of a bed sore is a red, painful area. As blood flow continues to be restricted, the skin in the area begins to die, resulting in a purple appearance. Leaving bed sores untreated can lead to more damage to the skin and beyond.
What Can Happen to Untreated Bed Sores?
Bed sores form because an area has been under constant pressure. Simply removing the pressure doesn't reverse the damage. Bed sores require treatment.
Leaving bed sores untreated can lead to further, more severe deterioration of the skin. It can become broken and infected. Ignoring the presence of bed sores can lead to damage to the muscles or bones in the area. Even treated bed sores aren't instantly healed.
How Long Does It Take to Heal Bed Sores?
Multiple factors affect the body's ability to heal from bed sores. It isn't an instantaneous event. Healing can be a slow process taking days, weeks, months, or in severe cases, years.
The severity of the bed sores is one factor affecting the healing process. The patient's physical condition is another undeniable factor. If other diseases, such as diabetes or disorders affecting immune responses, are present, it may be an extended time before healing happens.
In extreme cases, bed sores may require more drastic intervention to heal. On occasion, surgical intervention is required to jump-start the healing process. Knowing where bed sores are more likely to occur allows you to recognize their presence and initiate the healing process before they reach their most severe stage.
Common Places for Bed Sores
Bed sores occur when prolonged pressure has been applied to a specific area of the body. Since they occur along pressure points, it's understandable that those points are found in specific areas of the body.
The most common pressure points are:
· The buttocks, specifically the area around the hips and tailbone
· The feet, particularly the heels
· The shoulders, especially along the shoulder blades
· The head, most commonly along the back of the head
· The knees, usually along the sides or the back of the knee
Recognizing the symptoms of bed sores can help you avoid their painful presence.
What Are the Symptoms of Bed Sores?
Symptoms of bed sores occur in stages. There are four stages of bed sore symptoms with Stage 1 being the least severe and Stage 4 requiring the most intervention.
The mildest form of bed sores is Stage 1. This stage is characterized by redness around the pressure point that feels warm when touched. Darker-complexioned people may have blue or purple areas instead of red. Common complaints from the patient at this stage are burning, itching, or hurting.
In Stage 2, you see more damaged skin with an open sore, a blister, or a scraped appearance. The skin surrounding the wound may appear to be discolored, much like Stage 1 wounds. At this stage, the patient is likely to complain that the area causes them a large amount of pain.
With Stage 3, the damage has already occurred beneath the surface of the skin. The wound at this stage looks like a small crater.
Stage 4 presents with a large wound and severely damaged skin. At this point, muscles, tendons, bones, and joints may be affected. There is a notable risk of infection at this point.
The condition of the bed sores dictates the treatment plan.
Bed Sore Treatment
Treatment for bed sores is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The doctor will assess the symptoms and base the treatment on that assessment. Most plans begin with an order to remove the pressure from the area. Basic wound care—cleaning and bandaging—is also a typical recommendation.
Good nutrition is essential for the healing process. Medications like antibiotics may also be needed to treat infection.
Negative pressure therapy for the wound may be necessary. In more severe cases of bed sores, wounds may need surgical intervention such as debridement (removal of damaged skin) or a skin graft (repairing of the wound with a skin transplant). Avoid treatment by taking steps to prevent bed sores from occurring.
Preventing Bed Sores
Bed sores can be prevented by taking some simple steps. For someone bedridden, it's important to reposition and turn at a minimum of every two hours. In a wheelchair, it's imperative to change positions, even slightly, every 15 minutes. Extra padding in the bed or chair may also help.
Good skincare and good nutrition are sometimes forgotten but are important tools in the prevention and treatment of bed sores. Clean skin that is kept dry and eating foods with proper nutrients are essential components to overall health. Treatment or prevention—the choice is yours.
Bed sores are preventable wounds associated with the inability to feel pain due to immobility. Good nutrition combined with frequent repositioning can help avoid the need for treatment.