Bed Sores: Facts You Should Know

An unmade bedAccording to the US Department of Health and Human Services, about 2.5 million American patients suffer from bed sores, also known as pressure sores. Medicare estimates that the medical bills increase by as much as $43,000 for every pressure sore that requires a hospital stay. Furthermore, there are more than 17,000 lawsuits filed every year because of bed sores and sadly around 60,000 deaths every year.

Bed sores come from several other names such as pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers, deep tissue injury, or pressure injuries. They occur because of pressure on the skin that limits blood flow and damages the skin and surrounding tissue. Those who are vulnerable to bed sores are patients who sit or lie in one position for hours, perspire/urinate and allow the sweat/urine to dry up, neglect, abuse, improper dressing change, and those who are overweight.

When blood flow is interrupted, the skin starts to starve from lack of oxygen and nutrients and then begins to break down. Often bed sores occur in areas where there is less fat or muscle like the tailbone, shoulder blades, spine, heels, elbows, and hips. The elderly are more at risk for bedsores because their skin is less elastic and more delicate. Fortunately, with professional medical care (especially with home care patients), bed sores are preventable.

The 4 Stages of Bed Sores

Stage 1 – Redness on the skin, skin is tender, warmer, and a little painful to the touch. If you apply a small amount of pressure, it will change color temporarily

Stage 2 – This is when the skin starts to break open or form a tender and painful ulcer. It will appear to be a blister or shallow crater, but it is already beginning to expand deeper into the skin. Sometimes, the abscess has a little clear fluid inside. The sore should be treated immediately, or some of the skin could die.

Stage 3 –  The sore can extend deep into the tissue beneath your skin and form a crater. You may now see some fat on your ulcer.

Stage 4 – This is the most critical stage as the infection is very deep and has reached bone and muscle. If left untreated, the infection may extend to joints and tendons

Interestingly, the pain subsides at Stage 3 and 4, but these are the stages when sepsis or bone infection occur. There are also cases when the bed sore is at stage 3 or 4 but appears to be stage 2 or a blister because there is no open wound. However, if the fluid in the blister is reddish, then the chances are higher that it is beyond stage 2.

The best way to determine the stage is for the doctor to see the base of the sore but this is not always possible if there is pus or a thick layer of tissue covering the base.

With professional care, you avoid the risk of stage 2 or worse because of the training and experience of the nurse in caring for an invalid. And when the nurse is not around, the family can ensure proper care by requesting a training session from the nurse on how to prevent bed sores.