Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers, are a common injury suffered by individuals whose mobility prevents them from being able to change their body position for extended periods of time. The resulting pressure damages the skin, causing painful sores to develop. It’s estimated that between 10-20% of people in a nursing facility will experience Bedsores at some point during their care. For people at home, that number is about 150,000 people per year.
Aside from the discomfort and pain they cause, Bedsores also are fairly susceptible to infections, which is why it’s important to know how to both identify and prevent them. The first step is simply to understand what they are and they form.
What are Bedsores?
Bedsores occur when pressure is put on the skin for a prolonged period of time. They often develop in places where the body makes contact with some kind of surface, such as a bed or chair. Some common injury sites include the heels, hips, buttocks, shoulders, elbow, and the back of the head.
There are four stages of Bed Sores:
- Stage 1 – The skin is red and painful, but not open. The area around the sore often feels warmer and a little swollen.
- Stage 2 – The skin tears or opens, forming an ulcer or a wound that looks similar to a blister. The Bedsore penetrates deeper than the surface, affecting more layers of the skin.
- Stage 3 – The ulcer or wound area expands even further, and affects the tissue beneath the skin.
- Stage 4 – The ulcer reaches the bone and muscle. In this stage, pain is often minimal, as the tissue damage usually includes damage to the nerves. These Bedsores are highly susceptible to more severe infections and medical complications.
Most Bedsores that people experience are either stage 1 or 2, but more severe can develop if left untreated. The absolute best way to treat an existing Bedsore is to contact a healthcare provider immediately. Healthcare professionals will assess the wound and determine the best course of action for recovery.
The good news about Bedsores is that there is a lot that can be done to help prevent them. A few simple practices can help keep them from ever becoming a problem, so try to integrate these as part of your normal care routine.
- Change Position – Bedsores occur as a result of too much pressure in a single spot, so relieving that pressure is key. The easiest way to do it is simply by changing positions. Move the body so that pressure does not build in a single place for too long, and give the body plenty of time to recover before moving back to a previous position. For the best protection, shift position multiple times per day.
- Use Soft Barriers – Changing position sometimes may be difficult (for example, when sleeping), so a great alternative is to use very soft barriers as a way to absorb some of the pressure. Pillows are an excellent choice. Use pillows to prop up areas where pressure may build, such as the head, the heels, and back.
- Keep the Skin Dry – Moisture plays a big role in skin irritation and breakdown, so keeping it nice and dry will go a long way to preventing Bedsores. Make sure that sweat and other liquids are gently wiped away from the body.
- Stay Moving – Motion can help keep Bedsores from developing, so if possible, perform little movements throughout the day. They don’t need to be strenuous; just try to reach a full range of motion so that pressure is relieved.
Remember that the best approach to dealing with Bedsores is to catch them early and take action quickly. Prevention is the first line of defense, but if you do notice something that could be a Bedsore, you should contact a doctor immediately. Staying ahead of the issue will lead to much healthier and happier quality of life.