Reviewed by Christine Kijek, Registered Colorectal Nurse, on August 20, 2022
Also known as pressure ulcers, bedsores are injuries that affect the skin as well as the layers underneath. Bedsores occur in patients who are bedridden for a long period or suffer a prolonged pressure over an area of skin for a stretch of time. When the body doesn’t get any movement, it can hinder adequate blood flow to the skin, depriving it of nutrients and oxygen. For the most part, bedsores form on areas of the skin that contain little muscle and fat, such as shoulder blades, ankles, elbows, hips, heels, and the sacrum (tailbone), but they can also occur in numerous other areas as well.
The bedsores begin as a reddish or dark discoloration of the affected skin. This phase is called Stage I . As the bedsore progresses without detection and treatment to stages II, III, and IV, there may be deeper involvement including muscles, bones and joints as well. Where do bedsores develop and how severe they become largely depends on the position of the individual, the amount of pressure being applied, and the length of time for which the position has been maintained.
Bedsores not only cause pain and discomfort, but may lead to infections, like meningitis, cellulitis, and endocarditis. Bedsore prevention and treatment can be complicated by the presence of other long-term disorders like diabetes, heart failure, malnutrition, to name a few. Treatment of bedsores thus needs care of these underlying conditions.
Bedsores may be prevented by regular vigilance and awareness. Some steps in prevention of pressure ulcers include:
Continuous movement and changing positions frequently relieve the pressure on skin areas that are vulnerable to bedsores. It is a good idea to reposition your body at least every couple of hours if you are bedridden. A patient with bedsores is made to lie in such a way that there is no pressure on the injury to prevent its worsening. Correct sitting and lying positions, good posture, foot support, and use of daily aid products to prevent bed sores can reduce the occurrence of pressure injuries as well as complications from them.
People who are bed-bound or who spend a considerable amount of time in bed are at the highest risk of developing bedsores. Conventional bed traps the body heat and moisture causing skin breakdown and rashes, leading to bedsores. Bedsore treatment and prevention lie in using the therapeutic low air loss mattress system.
A low air loss mattress has tiny laser-made air holes in its top surface which continually blow out air causing the patient to float. This reduces skin interface pressure at the mattress surface. As a result, moisture is wicked away and the patient stays dry. This is an excellent therapeutic environment for the prevention and treatment of stages 1 to 4 pressure ulcers. The alternating air pressure mattress pulsates and oscillates from time to time to redistribute pressure.
Another effective way to prevent bedsores is to put pillows and seat cushions between parts of your body that press against each other. If you are lying on your side, it is better to put the pillow between your knees and ankles.
Regular skincare and inspection prevent bedsore development. Some tell-tale signs of bedsores include red patches of skin that do not fade, blisters, or damage to the skin. Keep your skin clean and dry, use skin cleansers that are non-drying, apply a water-based moisturizer daily, and use bed sore cream to prevent bedsores. Be careful of bony areas and don’t rub or massage them. Ask a caregiver or medical professional for help if you need it. Particularly, keep the genital area and skin folds clean and dry.
Heel pillows and elbow protectors help prevent skin breakdown and bedsores in people who must spend long periods of time in bed. Heel pillows help protect heels and ankles from skin irritation and friction burns. These bedsore prevention products are filled with polyester fiber, covered with cotton fabric and have a padded adjustable strap with a hook and loop fastener for quick and easy application. It is advisable to remove them at least every two hours to check for skin integrity, proper circulation, and range of motion.
Exercising is a great way to prevent bedsores. Exercise increases the heart rate and results in increased blood circulation. When nutrient-filled oxygenated blood reaches every part of the body, it reduces the chances of development of bedsores. It is possible for bedridden patients to perform a few range-of-motion exercises to reduce the risk of bedsores. For example, arm lifts and leg rotations. Patients at risk of developing bedsores are advised to eat a healthy and balanced diet. Stop smoking and avoid alcohol use. Include vitamin supplements if there is a deficiency.
Once the pressure has been removed, early stage bedsores usually heal by themselves. Later stage bedsores are however difficult to treat. Pressure ulcer treatment is aimed to prevent infection and protect the affected area. To treat bedsores hydrocolloid dressings, hydrogel dressings, and foam dressings are recommended. Patients who have developed infections require antibiotics and special anti-bacterial dressings to kill bacteria and promote healing. DuoDERM hydrocolloid bandages by ConvaTec can be used to treat bedsores of all stages. They possess moisture-retention ability to absorb seepage from the injury or wound and protect the wound from bacteria reducing infection. These bedsore treatment products are designed to speed up the process of wound healing by providing a moist environment to the affected area. DuoDERM dressing bandages successfully block oxygen, bacteria, and water vapor from permeating the bandage. They don't stick to the wound and can be easily removed without injuring the skin underneath. These bedsore products can normally remain in place for between 3 to 7 days. DuoDERM dressings should only be applied on bedsores that are not infected.
ConvaTec DuoDERM Signal hydrocolloid dressing features a visual indicator that allows you to determine exactly when the dressing should be changed to maximize wound healing.
If left untreated, later-stage bedsores can be life-threatening. They can result in severe bone infections, blood poisoning, sepsis and considerable pain. Deep bedsores often require surgical treatment to remove dead and decaying tissue (debridement). Consult your doctor or physical therapist immediately if the bedsore worsens or shows no sign of healing. With the appropriate preventive measures and pressure sore treatment, patients can significantly reduce the risk of developing bedsores.
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