When someone is paralyzed or has limited mobility, whether short-term or long-term, you may notice areas of irritated or broken skin. These are bed sores, which can range from mild to severe and may cause pain and discomfort.
How Do Bed Sores Develop?
Bed sores, also called pressure sores, happen when the skin breaks down because of constant pressure in one area. This happens when someone spends a lot of time in a bed or chair without adjusting his or her position.
These sores most often appear on bony areas like elbows, knees, shoulders, and hips; between skin folds; and where medical equipment puts pressure on the skin.
Bed sores are rated in stages from one to four.
Stage 1 is minor skin irritation, and stage 4 means the damage has penetrated to deep tissue, muscle, and even bone. The sores can look red or purplish, or you may see an ulcer or open wound develop.
How Are Pressure Sores Treated?
To treat a minor sore, keep a clean bandage over the wound, and change it regularly. Keep the bandage moist so that it won’t stick to the wound.
The next important part of treatment is to change positions regularly. If you spend a lot of time in a wheelchair or recliner, adjust your weight every 15 or 30 minutes. If you’re in a bed, move or ask to be moved to a new position every two hours.
Eating plenty of protein and drinking a lot of fluids will also help your skin heal.
Minor bed sores heal in a few weeks. More serious wounds can take much longer.
Diabetes and smoking interfere with your body’s ability to heal. You may need more extensive treatment if you sores aren’t getting better.
Caregivers can help by keeping a schedule for helping your loved one change positions and keep up a proper diet. When in the hospital, a nurse should be regularly changing the individual’s linens and rotating his or her position in bed.
How Can I Prevent Bed Sores?
The main way to prevent these sores is to shift your weight as often as you can. For people with bowel or bladder problems, it’s important to stay clean and dry. Delays in being clean after an accident can lead to skin damage.
Other measures you or your caregiver can take to prevent pressure sores include:
- Not smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Using lotion to keep your skin from becoming dry and cracked
When moving someone, be sure to lift them carefully. Dragging someone across bedsheets or sliding in a chair can cause friction burns (think of getting rug burn when you were a kid), which can lead to further skin damage.
Most of the time bed sores can be prevented or easily treated before they get too severe. It’s important to maintain good hygiene and take precautions.