The result of continual pressure on soft tissue, decubitus ulcers (also known as bed sores or pressure ulcers) are the eventual breakdown of the skin and underlying tissue, muscle, and bone. Bed sores usually occur on areas of the body where skin overlays a bony area: hips, back, ankles, heels, and buttocks. Bed sores can be classified by 4+ stages:
Stage 1: The skin is not broken, but it is discolored. Depending on your skin tone the area can appear white, red, blue, or purple.
Stage 2: The skin is open and there are signs of tissue death. The sore is still shallow and appears red or pink, possible with a fluid-filled blister.
Stage 3: The sore has become deeper and now is affecting the fatty layers of tissue. It is beginning to look like a crater, possibly with puss.
Stage 4: Muscle and bone are now affected and eschar (slough or dead tissue) is possible
Unstageable: Tissue death is advanced past all four stages. The wound appears yellow or green, and can either be soft with pus, or brown and covered with a scab.
Bed sores are usually found in people who are immobile or remain immobile for long periods of time. Groups particularly at risk include diabetics, the elderly, disabled, or paralyzed (partially or fully), and those with fragile skin or are wheelchair-bound. In these cases, poor health and nutrition, dehydration, soiled clothing or sheets, restricted blood flow (generally as a result of diabetes), age, and the inability to move are all contributing factors. Medical negligence is frequently at the root of the problem.
Prevention and Treatment
Medical professionals are trained in how to prevent bed sores, but this injury is frequently overlooked. Unfortunately, the prevention is just a simple and is often forgone.
Bed sores can be prevented by monitoring and inspecting patients’ skin regularly. Patients lying down for long periods of time should be repositioned once every two hours, they should be lying on pressure-relieving mattresses or cushions, and sheets and undergarments should be changed regularly. If circulation is an issue, the skin should be massaged to encourage blood flow.
If bed sores do occur, antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent further infection and the area should remain clean and have dressings changed frequently. It will heal like any wound would.