A bedsore develops when blood flow to certain areas of skin is disrupted. Generally, this happens when a person remains in one position for extended periods of time. Individuals who are bedridden commonly get bedsores, which are also known as pressure ulcers and decubitus ulcers. The pressure from remaining in one set position can cause skin tissue to die from the lack of blood circulation. Bedsores most commonly form on the buttocks, back, hips, shoulders, heels, ankles, elbows and the back portion of the head.
In general, any type of immobility that requires a person to lie or sit in one position without periodic shifting can cause a bedsore. Individuals who are unable to get out of bed on their own are most at risk for this skin condition. Sitting, such as in a wheelchair, for long periods of time can cause the sores as well. Having a health condition like a vascular disease can be a predisposer, as a person with this type of condition may have existing problems with blood flow. Other common causes may include being elderly, as this may cause inactivity, malnourishment and incontinence problems.
The severity of a bedsore is rated in four stages. During stage one, the skin may only appear very reddened and may feel firm or spongy and warm to touch. An open sore will be present with a stage two sore and the area surrounding the sore may be irritated and discolored. Stage three bedsores look similar to craters and tissues lying underneath the top layer of skin is generally damaged by this point. Bedsores in stage four commonly result in damage to the bones and muscles under the sore and at times the damage can extend into the adjoining tendons.
Skin conditions like bedsores are generally diagnosable with visual examination. The treatment of the skin condition will normally depend on the stage of severity. A stage one or two bedsore may heal without very invasive treatment. Treatment for minor sores will include thoroughly cleaning the sore and dressing it to protect it from additional injury. Some people may use special cushions to diminish pressure in concentrated areas as well.
Large bedsores may need surgical repair. Surgery may be needed to repair severely damaged skin, tissues and other structures such as muscles and tendons. If an infection develops, surgery may be necessary to adequately drain the infection. Wound healing may be more substantial for a very large bedsore requiring surgery.
To prevent a bedsore, individuals who are bedridden should be helped into different positions periodically. Additionally, when possible, individuals in wheelchairs should be assisted into different seating or resting locations. If a sore starts to smell, run profusely or the individual develops a fever, this could indicate an infection. For this reason, it is essential to get the sore medically evaluated promptly.