What is a Bed Sore or Pressure Sore?
Bedsores (also known as Pressure Sores) are areas of damage to the skin and underlying tissue which develops due to prolonged pressure or friction on vulnerable areas of the body. Typical areas include, the tail bone, sacrum, hips, heels and elbows. These can develop quickly in a person with reduced mobility, such as a person confined to a chair or bed. Elderly persons are especially at risk which is why this tends to happen more at nursing homes.
Pressure sores, once developed, can be difficult to treat. Bedsores with red irritated skin left untreated will breakdown, leading to tissue death, then the skin will break open and become infected, and ultimately and tragically leading to death in some cases. Bedsores can also trigger other ailments, such as bladder distension, anemia, and sepsis resulting in an untimely wrongful death.
Grades or Stages of Bed Sores
- The skin is not yet broken.
- The skin appears red or discolored.
- The skin doesn’t blanch when touched.
- The site may be tender, painful, firm, soft, warm or cool compared with the surrounding skin.
At stage II:
- The outer layer of skin (epidermis) and part of the underlying layer of skin (dermis) is damaged or lost.
- The wound may be shallow and pinkish or red.
- The wound may look like a fluid-filled blister or a ruptured blister.
- It will be very painful to the touch and difficult to keep clean.
At stage III, the ulcer is a deep wound:
- The loss of skin usually exposes some fat.
- The ulcer looks crater-like.
- The bottom of the wound may have some yellowish dead tissue.
- The damage may extend beyond the primary wound below layers of healthy skin.
- Patient will experience extreme pain to the site and areas around the site.
A stage IV ulcer shows large-scale loss of tissue:
- The wound may expose muscle, bone or tendons.
- The bottom of the wound likely contains dead tissue that’s yellowish or dark and crusty.
- The damage often extends beyond the primary wound below layers of healthy skin.
- Damage may extend to joint, tendon and bone.
Complications of Pressure Sores
Bedsores with red irritated skin left untreated will breakdown, leading to tissue death, then the skin will break open and become infected, and ultimately and tragically leading to death in some cases. Bedsores can also trigger other ailments, such as:
- bladder distension (inability to urinate)
- abscess (collection of pus in the skin and tissue)
- sepsis (a build up of bacteria entering the bloodstream and can be fatal)
- anemia (lack of red blood cells)
Pressure sores and bed sores are caused by constant pressure being applied to a particular area of skin over a sustained period of time. The skin of older and weaker people tends to be thinner which means they are at an increased risk if confined to a chair or bed for a prolonged stay.
Areas Most at Risk
People confined to a bed or chair are likely to develop sores in the following areas:
- tail bone
Prevention of Pressure Sores
Those in the position or capacity of caring for someone who is confined to a chair or bed for any period of time, should be aware that there is a risk of pressure sores. Relieving pressure by reducing the amount of time that the pressure is applied to that area is paramount. There must be a plan that includes the following:
- position changes
- supportive devices
- skin care
- regular checks for any warning signs
- proper dietary and hygiene habits
Warning Signs of Pressure Sores
When a person is bedridden or confined to a chair, it is necessary to check daily for early warning signs. Prevention is key. These signs include:
- Red/blue/purple or other discoloration in the skin especially in the high risk areas.
- Torn or swollen skin in those same areas
- Signs of infection such as skin heat, cracks, wrinkles, swelling, redness, etc.
Treating Pressure Sores
Treatment from the onset of pressure sores is critical. If treatment can begin during the initial stage, there is a great change that it will not advance further and develop into a potential life threatening situation.
- position changes
- special cushions, bedding or mattresses that help reduce pressure
- dressings and bandages on the affected areas
- regular and thorough cleaning of damaged areas
- lotions, medications or creams to help any damage to the skin
- surgery, if necessary
Where to Get Help
If your loved one is in a place where they are suffering from bed sores or pressure sores, reach out to your own doctor. If the wound is severe, you may need to get the patient to the hospital for immediate care and treatment.
There are Federal and State laws to protect patients at hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities. A victim or family may initiate a lawsuit. There are a variety of causes of action to pursue a lawsuit, including post-mortem, based upon negligent acts and omissions, nursing home abuse and neglect, wrongful death and/or medical malpractice.
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