PEM – Bed Sores

Bed Sores
Source: Treating Pressure Sores, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research.

What Are They? Bed Sores (or pressure sore) are injuries the skin and tissue underneath it, which occur when you sit or lie in the same position for a very long time. Most bed sores form on the buttocks, tailbone, shoulder blades, behind the knee or ankle, heel of the foot. Pressure sores can become serious or even life-threatening if they are left untreated or if they become infected. People who are confined to bed or use wheel chairs for a long time are at the highest risk.

Signs and Symptoms

Bed sores progress through four stages. Stage 1- Constant warm, pink, or red area of unbroken skin, usually over a bony area. Stage 2 – The sore looks like a blister, small break in the skin, or a shallow crater. The surrounding area may be red. Stage 3 – The sore goes all the way into the layer of fat just under the skin. It may be white or black in color; may have a foul smell or may be draining. Stage 4 – The sore extends into muscle or bone. It may be white or black in color. The surrounding area may be warm to the touch or red. There may be foul smelling drainage.

Causes If you sit or lie in the same position for too long, the pressure on a small part of your body can cause the blood vessels to squeeze shut. Oxygen and other nutrients do not reach the skin, and it starts to die. A bed sore forms. If the sore is not treated, the layers of skin, the fat, and muscle may all die.

Treatments And Self-helps Bed sores are much easier to prevent than they are to cure. The easiest way to prevent them is to relieve the pressure on your skin. Try to shift your position every 15 minutes. If you cannot move yourself, have someone else move you every 2 hours. Make sure your body is properly supported. Use pillows and foam pads to raise your ankles and to keep your knees and ankles from touching. Examine your skin for red or sore spots each morning just before you get out of bed and each night just before you go to sleep.

When Do I Call The Doctor? If you need to stay in bed or in a wheel chair for a long time, ask your doctor about bed sores. If a bed sore does form, tell your nurse or doctor immediately. By relieving the pressure, washing the sore, and placing prescribed ointments and dressings on it, you should be able to heal the sore in several weeks. With careful self-examination and careful attention to shifting positions, bed sores can be prevented.

Resource: National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel

Source: Treating Pressure Sores, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research.

Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indianapolis, Indiana

Written by Library Service
Endorsed by Peggy Egan, RN, MSN, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Rehabilitation