Anyone who is confined to bed or a wheelchair for an extended period of time is at risk from bed sores. Also called decubitus ulcers, pressure ulcers or pressure sores, these skin injuries are caused by unrelieved pressure, friction or shear (the skin surface being pulled in opposing directions at the same time).
Treatment depends on the severity of the sore and there are four stages.
Stage 1—Most Superficial. Redness, especially on light-skinned patients. May appear bluish or purplish on darker skin tones. They skin may also be hotter or cooler than normal.
Stage 2—Damage to Epidermis. This may extend into the dermis, but no lower. This may look like a blister.
Stage 3—Full Thickness of Skin. Includes some of the subcutaneous tissue layer. Because of poor blood flow, here, this layer is very hard to heal.
Stage 4—Deepest Ulcer. Extends into muscle, tendon and sometimes even bone.
Any instructions on how to treat bed sores will include several warnings. Bed sores should be taken very seriously. If not treated properly, they can become extremely painful and even fatal. A doctor should be involved to monitor and to establish treatments.
Of utmost concern is that the bed sore not become worse. If not treated promptly, the skin can break and invite infection. And once the skin has broken, treatment becomes measurably more difficult.
If you notice a bed sore becoming worse, notify the doctor immediately.
- Relieve the pressure that caused the bed sore.
- Protect the damaged skin with medicated gauze. The attending physician will recommend the type of dressing to be used depending on the severity of the sore.
- Keep the wound clean.
- Frequently change body position.
- Distribute body weight evenly with special mattresses or other support.
- Wash the sore daily. If stage 1, water and mild soap are okay. For stage 2 and beyond, wash with saline solution. This not only cleans, but it helps to moisten the sore in a way that promotes healing.
- Keep the tissue around the sore clean and dry.
- Antibiotics and pain relievers.
- Antibiotic ointments applied directly to the sore to reduce the risk of infection.
- Surgical removal of dead tissue.
- A healthful diet is essential for proper healing. The patient needs to eat the proper amount of protein daily.
Being confined to a bed or wheelchair is already uncomfortable. A bed sore can prove to be agonizing. To help relieve some of the discomfort doctors recommend anti-inflammatory drugs (nonsteroidal) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.) and naproxen (Aleve, etc.).
Of course, the best “treatment” is prevention. A specialized bed or mattress can help prevent bed sores with minimal effort or hassle.
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