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All You Need to Know About Bedsores

Also known as pressure ulcers, pressure sores, or decubitus ulcers, bedsores are skin lesions that can be caused by friction, humidity, temperature, continence, medication, shearing forces, age, and unrelieved pressure.

These can affect any part of the body, however bony or cartilaginous areas like elbows, knees, ankles and sacrum, are the most commonly attacked.

Bedsores can be treated if they are discovered early, but in many cases, they are also deadly. Bedsores appear when the skin, and the tissue below it, get damaged. These can become so severe as to affect the muscle and bone also.

They are common on patients who can't move due to paralysis, illness, or age. If the pressure is not relieved, the circulation to susceptible areas in the body is compromised, especially on buttocks, hips, and the skin on the heels, where the tissue dies if it is deprived from enough blood flow.

Even under the best medical and nursing care, bedsores are difficult to prevent. Any person who is unable to change positions without help while lying down can develop them. Once they appear, their development is fast and thus, they are difficult to heal. The general agreement is that preventive measures, like the use of an alternating air pressure mattress, ensure the integrity of the skin, helping in the better healing of bedsores.

Risk factors of bedsores

Risk factors are conditions that promote the development of an illness or a situation. Bedsores are common in:

  • Patients who can't move due to injury, acute illness, or sedation. In most cases, these people need help moving during the day and night, which can really impair the patient and caregiver's quality of life. The solution is the alternating air pressure mattress turning system, which turns the patient automatically to maintain the skin healthy.
  • People who suffer from long-term spinal injuries. The nerve damage they suffer is commonly permanent, thus, compression of the skin and other tissues is constant. Since they have little sensation, they do not perceive body signals of pain and discomfort, so they don't change positions often enough.

Within these two categories of people, who can't move without help, the risk increases if:

  • They are elderly
    Their skin is thinner and more vulnerable. In many cases they are underweight, with less padding around the bones, and suffer from poor nutrition, which affects the quality of the skin and blood vessels, which in turn makes healing more difficult.
  • They live in nursing homes
    Bedsores are much more common in nursing homes than in hospitals or at home. People in nursing homes are generally much frailer.
  • They are in a coma
    Coma patients are big candidates for bedsores because they can't move without help and do not respond to pain like others do.
  • They can't feel the pain
    If the patient is not able to feel the pain, he or she can't do anything to prevent it, like changing positions or asking for help. He or she may not even be aware that a pressure sore is appearing. The low air loss mattress turning system turns them automatically.
  • They lose weight in the hospital
    Hospitalized individuals normally lose weight, especially if they can't move. The less fat and muscle, the more bone is exposed to harm.
  • They don't eat right
    Patients with diets low in protein, vitamin C, and zinc, are at high risk of developing bedsores.
  • They have incontinence
    If the patient is constantly wet, the moisture will debilitate the skin. In the same way, if he or she suffers from fecal incontinence, bacteria can cause skin problems and can get into cracks on the skin, causing serious complications like gangrene, sepsis, and other infections.
  • They are ill
    Diabetics and people with vascular diseases that affect circulation may have problems with the blood flow to certain tissues; thus, these may get damaged more easily.
  • They smoke
    Nicotine affects circulation; smoking reduces the quantity of oxygen in the blood and thus, makes healing more difficult.
  • They have low mental awareness
    Someone who is not entirely mentally aware is not able to take action to prevent or help in the healing of bedsores. Again, an automatic turning system like the low air loss mattress will greatly improve conditions for such patients.

Signs and symptoms of bedsores

A sign is something that someone, for example a doctor, perceives, while the symptoms are felt by the patient.

Bedsores can easily develop in parts of the body that have little fat and muscle and that are in direct contact with a surface, like a bed or wheelchair. The most vulnerable parts are:

  • Ankles
  • Back of the head
  • Female breasts
  • Elbows
  • Male genitals
  • Heels
  • Knees
  • Rims of the ears
  • Shoulder blades
  • Shoulders
  • Toes
  • Buttocks
  • Tailbone
  • Spine
  • Back of arms
  • Back of legs

Causes of bedsores

Healthy people move all day and at night while in bed. Bedridden individuals can't perform these movements without help, and this is why they are at risk of developing bedsores.

Bedsores normally develop because of:

  • Constant pressure
    The pressure between skin on one side, and bone on the other, prevents the right flow of blood supply. There may be a lack of oxygen and nutrients that can cause the tissue to get damaged, unless the patient is in constant movement, for example, with the help of the alternating air pressure mattress.

  • Friction
    When a person has frail skin and poor circulation, the simple acts of turning and moving may hurt the skin, raising the risk of developing bedsores.

  • Shear
    This is when the skin moves in one direction while the bone moves in the opposite one. When this happens, cell walls and tiny blood cells may stretch and tear.

It is easier to prevent bedsores than to cure them. By taking the right measures, like using a low air loss mattress turning system, patients and medical personnel can importantly reduce the risk of developing them.

A good care plan includes position changes, supportive devices, routine skin inspections and a good diet. Changing positions is a crucial aspect in preventing bedsores. A pressure sore develops very fast, thus, it is important to change positions as often as possible, even during the night. If the person can't move without help, this measure implies both the patient and the caregiver will not be able to rest adequately during the night and day, and this is where the low air loss mattress system, the Völkner® Turning System, becomes indispensable.

The Völkner® is a low air loss mattress turning system that automatically turns the patient every 4, 5, or 6 minutes, eliminating the need to turn him or her manually except to treat wounds, for bowel programs, and personal care.

Visit our website and check out the Völkner® low air loss mattress' numerous and life enhancing benefits. Read about what it has already done for others in their testimonials, learn what we stand for, and contact us with any question or concern. We want our low air loss mattress system to make your loved one's life, and yours, much easier and enjoyable.