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Common Questions About Bed Sores

What are bed sores?
What are the symptoms of bed sores?
What are the risk factors for bed sores?
How can I prevent bed sores?
How can I treat bed sores?

What are bed sores?

Pressure sores, often called bed sores, are breakages in the skin caused by constant pressure or friction. bed sores likely get their name because they are so common among bed-ridden patients. HealthAtoZ reports that 10% of hospital patients, 25% of nursing patients, and 60% of quadriplegics suffer from bed sores and that 60,000 people die from bed sores every year. Because bed sores are common, it's important to know how bed sores form and are treated.

As mentioned above, bed sores form from constant pressure or friction. Constant pressure, which can be caused by something like a bed or mattress, cuts off blood flow to the area. If blood flow continues to be cut off, the tissue will eventually die and break up, causing the bed sore. CNN states that the most common areas for bed sores include: the back and sides of the head, rims of ears, shoulders and shoulder blades, hip bones, lower back and tailbone. The backs and sides of the knees, heels, ankles, and toes are also susceptible to bedsores.

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What are the symptoms of bed sores?

The first sign of a potential bed sore is a red mark on the affected area that won't change color when pressure is applied. Another symptom of bed sores can be a loss of sensation or feeling in the affected area. The skin may also be unusually firm or spongy. As the bed sore begins the skin will follow the 4 stages of wound (illustrations can be found in the article "What Are The Different Stages Of Wounds?"). That means that the bed sore will first start to bleed, and possibly release drainage. As the bed sore advances, it goes deeper and causes more drainage. The bed sore, if untreated, proceeds to the "fat" layer and creates more dead tissue and drainage. If the bed sore continues to go untreated, it can reach the bone and destroy it.

The greatest problem caused by bed sores is the possibility of an infection, which can hinder the immune system and are potentially fatal. Unfortunately, infection can occur in even small, shallow bed sores. Therefore, it is important to treat bed sores as soon as they are known. Back to top

What are the risk factors for bed sores?

Risk factors for bed sores can be divided into two categories: internal and external. Internal causes are problems within the body and external causes are things in the environment that can be controlled. Internal causes include:

  • Age: Older people are more likely to experience bed sores
  • Hardening of the arteries: As the arteries harden, circulation is reduced and likelihood of dead tissue forming is increased.
  • Diseases that make skin infections more likely: Infections create dead tissue, which is key in the formation of bed sores.
  • Obesity: Obesity can reduce the mobility of the patient, making them more likely to remain stationary for long periods of time and puts constant pressure on parts of the body.
  • Spinal cord injury and paralysis: These two problems also reduce a patient's mobility.
  • Loss of feeling or sensation: If there is no sensation in the body, it can be difficult to know when pressure as been applied to the body for too long.
  • Malnutrition and dehydration: Tissue needs a constant supply of nutrients to stay alive.
External causes include:
  • Living in a nursing home: Because patients living in a nursing home are less likely to be mobile, they are more susceptible to bed sores.
  • Incontinence: Incontinence increases the likelihood of skin infections.
  • Unsanitary conditions(e.g. dirty sheets or clothing): These conditions can also increase the likelihood of infection.
The list above is not a comprehensive list, but does list the major risk factors.
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How can I prevent bed sores?

Bed sores can be prevented in a few different ways. To reduce prevent constant pressure in bed, consider using Spenco's Silicore bed pad. This bed pad uses moisture-resistant nylon that doesn't mat down and protects pressure-prone areas of the body. Bed-ridden patients can also use Hollister's Heelbo heel and elbow protectors and SWT Heel, foot & ankle protectors. These protectors are made of comfortable, non-latex materials and reduce the pressure for areas of the body prone to bed sores. For patients who use a wheelchair, consider a sheepskin seat cover and arm rest.

When incontinence is a risk factor in a patient, use BAZA Antifungal and Calmoseptine Ointment to reduce the possibility of a bed sore. FNC's moisture barrier cream can also be useful in preventing bed. For skin that is beginning to show signs of a bed sore, but hasn't broken, use a Castile soap to gently wash the skin.

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How can I treat bed sores?

Serious bed sores will likely require surgery. If the patient has a bed sore forming, consult with a doctor as soon as possible. If the patient is malnourished or dehydrated, begin an appropriate diet and provide the necessary amount of water, which will help treat the bed sore. Hydrocolloid and transparent dressings are also used to cover the open bed sore.

Back to top Sources

Ucan - Preventing and Treating Pressure Ulcers in People with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Bed Sores
Health AtoZ - "bed sores"
How To Prevent Bed Sores From Becoming Deadly


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