It can be said that sometimes a lack of information can lead to the spread of misinformation and myths. At times, misinformation can be harmless and rather benign, but, when it comes to your health or the health of those in your care, misinformation can lead to rather serious problems.
This month, we hope to educate our Burlington Health Care patients about pressure sores, commonly known as ‘bed sores.’ A sore subject for many due to their pervasiveness and representation of a time in their loved one’s life that was particularly difficult, preventing and treating bed sores is critical in the care of loved ones who struggle with mobility.
What are Bed Sores?
Pressure sores are breakages in the skin caused by constant pressure or friction. Commonly appearing in people who are bed-ridden, bed sores develop when blood flow is cut off to a particular area. If blood is cut off from a particular area, the underlying tissue will eventually die and begin to break up, causing an open sore. Some common places for sores to develop are: the back of the head, rim of the ears, shoulder blades, hip bones, lower back, and tailbones. Ankles, heels and toes are also susceptible to bedsores.
Look for a red mark on the area that won’t change color when pressure is applied. A loss of sensation or feeling in the area is also another symptom of a forming bed sore. The skin usually loses it’s regular consistency; it may appear unusually firm or spongy. As the bed sore begins to form, the skin will follow the 4 stages of wound; beginning with bleeding and a release of drainage. If left untreated, the bed sore will proceed through the fat layer of the skin and reach the bone and destroy it. The most concerning part of bed sores is the increased possibility of an infection; hindering the immune system and posing a potentially fatal situation.
There are many ways that bed sores can be prevented; the main goal is to reduce constant pressure while in bed. There are special bed pads that use moisture-resistant nylon that protect pressure-prone areas of the body. Heel and elbow protectors made of comfortable, non-latex materials reduce the pressure for those areas most greatly affected by pressure sores. For patients who use a wheelchair, consider a sheepskin seat cover and armrest; a material that will allow for air circulation between the skin and chair.
Are you at risk?
There are 2 categories of risk factors: internal and external. Patients that exhibit any of these internal causes such as increased age, hardening of the arteries, obesity, spinal cord injuries, loss of sensation are at risk for developing bed sores. External causes such as living full time in a nursing facility, incontinence, and general unsanitary conditions all increase the likelihood of developing pressure sores.
We recommend contacting your primary medical provider at the first signs of a developing pressure sore so that they can assess the situation and stage of the sore. Serious bed sores will likely require surgery, while those at Stage 1 or 2 can be treated with a Hydrocolloid cream and transparent dressings. Burlington Health Care will work with your medical provider to supply you or those in your care with the proper medical supplies and equipment to handle bed sores.