Bed sores are a common skin infection which occurs with people who are unable to move around and reposition their bodies to more comfortable or beneficial position. People who are wheelchair bound or bedridden are highly susceptible to bed sores, also known as pressure sores due to the pressure exerted on the skin against protruding bony projections of the body. Many bedridden seniors often will form a bedsore right around the base of their tailbone, a bony area that presses into the bed. If left untreated, bed sores can be potentially life threatening.
Typical Causes of Bed Sores
The skin is made of multiple layers and has a good supply of blood which delivers oxygen to all of the skin layers throughout the body. When that blood supply is interrupted for several hours, the skin in that area will begin to die, starting with the outermost layer called the epidermis. When this outer layer of skin breaks down, it forms a sore. The moment the skin breaks apart at that vulnerable area, bacteria could enter the body through there and cause an infection.
The normal, able-bodied person is not going to develop bed sores, or pressure sores, because they can move about when a certain position becomes uncomfortable. However, someone who was very weak and could not move on their own, or perhaps paralyzed or in a coma, they would likely not be able to move to avoid these sores. That is why nurses often check on patients with limited mobility every few hours so that they can move them into new position to avoid developing sores.
Friction and excessive exposure to moisture can also produce pressure or bed sores. Repeated actions that could wear down skin layers like ill fitting shoes can cause sores. The bedridden are most susceptible to bed sores due to prolonged moisture.
Sweaty bed linens as well as incontinence of urine and feces in the bed can definitely cause bed sores and court a higher risk of infection. Even people with poor nutritional habits could develop pressure sores.
Signs and Prevention of Bed Sores
Bed sores can feel quite itchy and painful for those people who can feel it. However, those who may be paralyzed may never feel a bed sore and this can be hazardous to their health if left unchecked. There are several stages of bed sores aka pressure sores. These stages are based on how bad the damage is from simple inflammation and redness to sores that cut deep into the fat and muscle tissues to where you could see the bone beneath.
When infection sets into a bed sore, they can be slow to heal. If left unchecked, a bed sore could become gangrenous and give off a foul odor of decaying flesh, which is what it is doing. In severe cases, a bone infection pops up, requiring extensive hospitalization and antibiotic treatment or even sepsis, an infection of the blood.
The best prevention tips are to ensure that the caregivers for patients, whether in the hospital or nursing home are conscientiously inspecting them for sores and making it a point to constantly shift their position as necessary, usually every 3-4 hours. In addition, for patients with bony protrusions, pillows, foam and other soft materials should be used to cushion them. If caught early, bed sores can usually resolve themselves but otherwise would likely require antibiotic intervention, either orally or topically.