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What are the Causes of Pressure Sores?

Bedsores, also called ‘pressure ulcers’ or ‘decubitus ulcers’ or ‘pressure sores’ or just ‘decubitus’ are injuries to the skin and the tissues below it due to prolonged pressure on the skin. One of the main causes of pressure sores is the prolonged pressure that arises due to being in bed for a long time (during recovery or treatment etc). Most of the time, bedsores can be healed completely but in some cases, it becomes tough for your doctor to treat them till complete healing.

What are the symptoms of bedsores/pressure ulcers?

  • * Change in skin color and texture – If you can notice the areas, they look different from the skin in the surrounding areas.
  • * Swelling and some may see pus draining.
  • * Tender to touch
  • * Change in temperature in the area that is going to be affected.

At the start of bedsores, the skin may turn reddish with little swelling with no open wound whereas in severe cases, there will be a deeper injury to the tissues under the skin in the affected area.

What are the areas that are commonly affected due to pressure ulcers?

If a person is bedridden (temporarily or due to being in a vegetative state or a coma), pressure ulcers can be seen

  • * On the back side and sides of the head
  • * Shoulders
  • * Lower back, hip and near the tail bone
  • * Heels, ankles and skin behind the knees.

If a person is bound to a wheelchair due to treatment or disability, pressure ulcers can be seen

  • * On the buttocks or tail bone
  • * Spine
  • * Back of arms, legs and on the backside that actually touches the chair.

Causes of bedsores

In short, whatever the position of the person is, the area that is getting more pressure due to its own body weight is prone to developing sores. This is the primary cause of pressure sores. When constant pressure is laid on the same area of the body, the blood flow gets affected and lesser oxygen is supplied to the tissues and skin in that area. This eventually results in damage and death of cells and tissues in the area.

Friction, rubbing of skin against the skin from other body parts/areas,s or even against clothing can result in pressure ulcers. Shear is another factor that can cause bed sores. Shear is the force in opposite direction acting on the skin. For instance, when a person is lying in bed with their head elevated, he/she tends to slide down the bed. While the body tends to slide down, if the skin tries to remain in the same spot, that results in pulling of the skin resulting in an injury/sore.

Complications of pressure ulcers

  • * Cellulitis – An infection of the skin and the tissues under it. If the person has damaged nerves in the area or suffering from nerve disorders, the injury pain may not even be felt. The person may tend not to notice or ignore the wound without getting it treated.
  • * Bone and joint infections may be seen
  • * Long-term, nonhealing wounds can develop into a type of cancer.
  • * Sepsis, rare but possible condition. Sepsis is a condition when the body’s response to fight an infection results in inflammation of the body. This is a life-threatening emergency condition.

How can bedsores be prevented?

  • * If you realize that there is constant pressure laid on particular areas of the body, you need to shift your sitting or sleeping position to release the pressure and allow proper blood flow.
  • * If you are bound to wheelchair, try getting up to release the pressure off your butt. Or you can go for a wheelchair that can tilt and change positions of the seating area.
  • * Use beds that can reduce the pressure on the body parts such as foam beds or water beds or special inflatable beds etc.
  • * Physiotherapy – If you or any of your loved ones is in bed, a physiotherapist can massage the body so that there is good blood flow to all parts of the body reducing the risk of bedsores.