Bedsores are also known as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers. They occur when your bone squeezes your skin and tissue against an outside surface. Usually on weight-bearing parts of your body where the bones are near the skin.
Bedsores usually develop below your waist if you are unable to get out of bed. Although they can occur almost anywhere on your body. Common sites are the hips, shoulder blades, elbows, base of the spine, knees, ankles, heels, and even between fingers and toes.
It can happen to anyone but mostly people who are unable to change positions or those who spend most of their time in a bed or chair.
What causes bedsores?
Bedsores are usually cause by sitting or lying in one position for too long without a change. This puts pressure on certain areas of the body. Due to this, blood supply to the skin and the tissues reduces and deprives the skin cells of oxygen. When blood supply to the skin is cut off for more than two to three hours, the skin cells begin to die and a bedsore starts to develop. Left untreated, the skin can break open and become infected.
Additionally, it may also develop as a result of friction caused by your skin rubbing against another surface. In some cases, when two layers of skin slide on each other or move in opposite directions, it causes damage to the underlying tissue. This may happen if you are transferred from a bed to a stretcher.
Furthermore, excessive moisture softens your skin and reduces its resistance. This can also cause pressure sores. This can occur with excessive sweating and with inability to control urine or faeces.
What are the risk factors of bedsores?
- Inability to move such as in stroke or a severe head injury
- Either sitting or lying down always
- If you are unable to feel pain or uncomfortable such as in people with diabetes who experience nerve damage.
- Inability to control urine and faeces. When your skin comes into contact with the urine or faeces it causes irritation and damage. This can lead to bedsores.
- Unhealthy eating can lead to skin thinning and poor blood supply.
- Excessive weight gain
- Circulation disorders thus reducing blood flow to the skin in some areas. This can lead to pressure sores.
- Smoking – reduces blood flow to the skin. Healing of pressure sores is also a slower process for people who smoke.
What are the signs and symptoms of pressure ulcers?
Pressure ulcers can affect any part of the body that’s put under pressure. They’re most common on bony parts of the body, such as the heels, elbows, hips and base of the spine.
Bedsores usually begins with warmth, swelling and redness. The area becomes a sensitive patch of skin as well as hard. Sometimes there is pain and itchiness. It then goes on to develop into a sore or ulcer that can extend deep into the muscle and even bone.
Treating and preventing bedsores at home
The best way to prevent bedsores is by moving around frequently. This help to avoid constant pressure against your body and to redistribute your body weight. Also, it promotes blood flow to the tissues. However, if you can’t move, you should be helped to reposition at least every 2 hours or every 15 minutes. Pillows or foam wedges can help shift your weight if you’re unable to move.
Additionally, checking your skin every day for signs and symptoms of pressure ulcers. Keep skin clean and dry. Wash the skin with a gentle cleanser and pat dry. Do this cleansing routine regularly to limit the skin’s exposure to moisture, urine and stool.
Also, protect the skin. Use plain talcum powder to protect skin at friction points. Apply lotion to dry skin. Change bedding and clothing frequently if needed. Watch for buttons on the clothing and wrinkles in the bedding that irritate the skin.
Furthermore, eat a healthy balanced diet. A diet that contains enough protein and a good variety of vitamins and minerals. This helps your tissues to grow new ones faster.
Moreover, quit smoking if you smoke. Smoking makes you more likely to get pressure ulcers because of the damage caused to blood circulation.