Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, are injuries or damages to areas of skin and its underlying tissue that result from extended pressure on the skin. Bedsores can develop within a matter of a few hours or over a few days. As bedsores develop they are classified by stages, which are determined by the extent of skin damage. People with the greatest risk of developing bedsores are those with medical conditions that limit their ability to change their position or that are bedridden or spend a large amount of time in a chair.
It’s important to understand that bedsores are a serious medical condition that may develop quickly and without treatment, the situation may become life-threatening. Here are the most causes, symptoms, and most commonly affected sites of bedsores.
Causes of Bedsores
The most common cause of bedsores is constant pressure on a part of the body. The continuous pressure reduces blood flow to the underlying tissues, which can eventually die due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients. Other causes of bedsores may include friction that occurs when your skin rubs against bedding or clothing. The friction, especially when the skin is moist, can make fragile skin susceptible to injury. Shear, which means two surfaces are moving in the opposite direction. For instance, if a bed is raised at the head it may cause the person to slide down in bed, which causes the tailbone to move down, but the skin doesn’t move, so the bone and skin are pulled in opposite directions. It is important to understand that bedsores aren’t only caused by continuously lying in bed and they aren’t always a sign of neglect or poor home/medical care.
Signs and Symptoms
There are a number of warning signs of pressure ulcers or bedsores, including an unusual change to the color or texture of the skin, swelling in the affected area, draining of thick, pus-like fluid, tenderness in the area, and areas skin feeling warmer or cooler to the touch than other areas. There are four different stages of bedsores, which are determined by various characteristics, including depth and severity. The four stages of bedsores include:
- Stage 1– Skin is red, discolored, or darkened and the affected area may feel warm when touched. The person may also have pain, bruising, or blisters in the affected area.
- Stage 2– The epidermis (top layer of skin) is broken and looks like an open sore. There may also be swelling and oozing.
- Stage 3– The ulcer (bedsore) is deeper, extending into the tissue below the surface of the skin. There will typically be signs of infection, such as an odor, fever, and drainage of pus.
- Stage 4- The ulcer is much deeper, extending into the muscle, tendon, or bone. This stage is extremely dangerous with a high risk of infection.
Common Sites of Bedsores
Bedsores most commonly occur on bony parts of the body; areas with little muscle and/or fat, such as the tailbone, spine, hips, shoulder blades, buttocks, elbows, and heels. Any part of your body that presses against the surface of a mattress or wheelchair for an extended period of time is at risk of developing a pressure ulcer.
It is extremely important to recognize the early signs of skin damage. Even the areas that only have a minimal appearance of redness may be in the early stages of a developing pressure ulcer. Early treatment is essential in the prevention of wounds worsening. One of the easiest ways to help prevent bedsores is by frequently repositioning the person to avoid stress and pressure on the skin. It’s also important to take good care of skin, maintain good nutrition, stay hydrated and exercise, even light movement of the body for those who are bedridden can be beneficial.