Bed sores, also referred to as pressure sores, decubitus ulcers, or pressure ulcers, usually occur because of lying or sitting too long in a single position. This results in putting too much pressure on certain parts of the body bearing the body weight. If the body's position is not changed frequently enough, it leads to lowering the blood supply in the area, which can result in the formation of a sore.
Anybody who lies or sits without changing his or her position, is susceptible to getting these wounds. For example, if you are bedridden or confined to a wheelchair, the chances are high that you will get pressure ulcers. However, people who are mobile can also get them if an injury or illness causes them to stay in bed for a prolonged period of time. A few chronic diseases, like arteriosclerosis and diabetes, which usually involve poor blood supply to the affected areas, make these sores hard to heal.
They generally develop on areas of the body that are bony and do not have a padding of fat as a cushion. Hence, sores usually form on the hips, the spine's base, on the back, the shoulder blades, behind the head, on the sides of the knees, and even on the heels. They can become a serious condition, depending on the extent to which the skin and the underlying tissues are affected.
For instance, if it is just a mild case, it merely causes discoloration of the skin, without a full-blown sore forming. The affected area usually turns red or deep purple, for light-skinned people. The area becomes darker in color than normal for dark-skinned people. The affected area may also feel warmer compared to the skin surrounding it. Deep sores may affect the underlying muscle, and even the bone.
- A foul smell emanating from the sore
- Warmth or redness around the sore
- Tenderness in the affected area
- Swelling of the tissue around the wound
- Thick green or yellow pus.
When the sores get infected, they heal far more slowly, and can even spread a serious infection throughout the body. Some of the signs of this infection are:
- Chills or fever
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Mental confusion
- Increase in the rate of the heartbeat
When sores get infected, the treatment depends on how serious the infection is. If it is within the wound, an antibiotic ointment is usually applied over it. However, if the deeper tissues or bone are involved, antibiotics are usually given intravenously.
- In order to aid the healing process, the affected area needs to be kept clean and free of dead tissues.
- The sore can be cleaned by bathing the area with a salt water solution. This solution helps in removing loose matter and extra fluid. Your nurse or physician will show you the cleansing process.
- After cleaning it, the sore should be covered with a dressing or bandage. A gauze can also be used sometimes. If a gauze is used, it must be kept moist, and changed at least once in a day.
- Hydrocolloid dressing and see-through film are some of the newer types of dressing used these days. Hydrocolloid dressings are made of a gel, which molds on the bed sore. These dressings can be kept on for several days without changing.
- A scab or dead tissue in the sore can hamper the healing process, leading to infection. There are a number of ways dead tissue can be removed from the sore, one being rinsing the area every time the bandage is changed. Special dressings which help the body to dissolve the scab are also available. They need to be kept on the sore for a number of days.
- Another method is to apply bandages made of wet gauze over the sore, allowing them to dry. The scab sticks to the dried gauze, and comes off when it is removed.
- Sometimes surgery may be required to remove the dead tissue.
- Keeping the sore clean and removing dead tissue can be quite painful; hence your physician may suggest taking a painkiller about 30-60 minutes prior to changing the dressing.
- In order to avoid so much suffering and pain, it is best to prevent this infection from occurring in the first place. The best way to do that, is to avoid putting prolonged pressure on a single area of your body, especially on the pressure areas mentioned earlier.
- Keeping your skin healthy is also very important. See that your skin is always dry and clean. Use warm water and a mild soap to bathe.
- Applying moisturizers is a good way to keep the skin from getting too dry.
- If you are forced to spend prolonged periods in a wheelchair or in bed, keep checking your entire body daily, for changes in the color of the skin, spots, or any other symptoms of sores, paying particular attention to vulnerable areas.
Take good care of your health. In case you fall prey to these ulcers, follow the tips mentioned above, and get rid of the wound immediately.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.