What Are Bed Sores?

Commonly named bed sores are also called pressure sores, pressure ulcers, and decubitus ulcers. Bed sores are tears in the skin that result from constant pressure applied to the skin which cuts off blood flow to the area.

A person confined to bed for long periods of time is susceptible to developing bed sores.

Because the patient in unable to move, areas on their body that are in constant contact with the mattress are likely to experience skin breakdown.

As this image from Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research shows, blood flow is life flow. Without proper circulation, oxygen and nutrients are unable to reach every cell in the body. Cell death begins at the surface of the skin and continues to spread deep into tissue until the bone is exposed. Bed sores are difficult to heal at this late stage.



Incontinence is a Factor

Often patients who cannot move on their own are also incontinent. The skin on buttocks and tailbone are exposed to constant pressure from the mattress, as well as urine and feces. This creates a dark, moist, bacteria-rich environment that aids in the destruction of healthy skin.

A person confined to bed for long periods of time like after surgery is also susceptible to developing bed sores. If the patient in unable to move on their own, areas on their body that are in constant contact with the mattress, bedding or chair and are at risk of developing skin breakdown.




Most Susceptible Areas

The home caregiver must become competent in identifying potential skin breakdown. The patient must be checked every time they are cleaned and changed (if incontinent) or when helping the patient dress and undress at the beginning and end of each day.

Any change in skin color on any area of the body is likely the beginning of a bed sore. Immediate action is required if skin discoloration is noticed.


Stages of Bed Sores

Stages of bed sore development are shown on the left. Bed sores can develop in as little as 2 hours and in a matter of days become much more severe.

Depending on the overall health of the patient, bed sores can take several weeks up to several months to heal.

Only 60% of Stage 4 bed sores heal. The need for careful observation and routine re-positioning of the patient is critical.


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