What Are The Main Causes of Bed Sores?
Every year, millions of people develop pressure ulcers or bedsores that can be incredibly painful and often lead to long-term health problems.
Bedsores can develop quickly and often result in long-term damage. If you or a loved one is at risk for bedsores, it's important to know what causes them and how to prevent them.
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC understand the complex nature of bedsore cases. We're here to help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Contact our Chicago bedsore attorneys at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for immediate legal advice and schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
Pressure Sores: A Growing Concern
According to the Mayo Foundation, millions of people suffer from bedsores every year, and the numbers continue to grow. Pressure sores or bedsores, or decubitus ulcers are serious problems that can lead to infection and even death if left untreated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 2 million people in the United States are affected by some form of bedsores annually, and the numbers continue to grow.
Also known as pressure ulcers, bedsores are localized injuries to the skin or other soft tissue areas resulting from prolonged or constant pressure. They develop on parts of your body that receive little to no blood flow, such as bony areas and those that have poor blood circulation, resulting in tissue death.
A pressure sore, also known as bedsore, is a serious health concern for millions of people in the United States. They can form anywhere on the body but are most common on the elbows, knees, heels, tailbone, and ankles.
Untreated pressure sores can lead to potentially fatal complications and critical medical conditions. However, sores heal with early diagnosis and early treatment.
The Early Signs of Pressure Ulcers
The most common warning sign of developing pressure sores is persistent skin irritation, such as itchiness or soreness, when the area in question is not being touched. Red skin or skin that feels warmer to the touch than usual may also appear and should be taken seriously.
People with pale skin tend to get red patches, while people with dark skin tend to get purple or blue patches. A pressure sore can sometimes cause pain and discomfort while walking or standing, but these sensations will disappear once the body is repositioned.
Is Bedsore a Symptom of a More Serious Condition?
Pressure sores are not dangerous by themselves, but they indicate that you have been neglecting your health. Without proper care and treatment, bedsores have the potential to grow into much more serious conditions, such as gangrene.
The most serious complication of a bedsore is an infection like septic arthritis (joint infections) squamous cell carcinoma (a life-threatening type of cancer), which can lead to additional complications and even death if left untreated. Signs of a pressure ulcer infection include:
- Tenderness around the sore
- Open sore with pus oozing from the sore
- Warmth in or around the sore, i.e., the surrounding skin is warm to the touch
- Redness in or around the sore
- Swelling in the lymph nodes, especially in your armpits and groin
- Excessive sweating
A pressure-induced injury takes time to develop and should be taken seriously immediately upon discovery, especially if the area is warm to the touch. If you or a loved one shows any of the above symptoms, or you noticed any warning signs like persistent pain or redness, contact your doctor right away for proper medical advice.
What Causes Bedsores?
Pressure sores or pressure injuries are caused by excessive amounts of pressure on the skin, especially fragile skin, which is a wound in itself. The skin is made up of three main layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous layer.
It explains why bedsore can be so painful as it is essentially a wound on the skin's surface (epidermis), which is often surrounded by inflamed tissue (dermis) and open to infection (subcutaneous).
The damage done occurs when a part of the body is placed under prolonged pressure for a prolonged period of time. These patients are often unable to move or reposition themselves, which leads to increased pressure on one part of the body and less weight from the other parts.
People who spend most of their time lying in bed are at risk for skin problems, especially if they have limited mobility due to spinal cord injury and sensation in the affected area.
Treating pressure sores immediately by a competent wound care team is crucial for survival for at-risk patients in a hospital or nursing home, where bedsores are most common.
There are three main types of bedsores:
- A full-thickness skin problem that damages both the epidermis and the dermis, leaving subcutaneous tissue unaffected. It is often seen among patients with decreased sensation in the affected area. A full-thickness bedsore is commonly found on pressure points such as the tail bone, hips, heel, ankles, elbows, the back of the shoulders, and shoulder blades.
- A localized injury to any part of the skin's epidermis or dermis; usually, localized bedsores form on areas of the body with limited muscle and fat tissue, such as the shoulders, ankles, heels, or elbows.
- A Stage 3 pressure sore is characterized by tissue necrosis in the area affected by bedsores. It damages subcutaneous tissue up to the mid-dermis level. A Stage 3 bedsore is often found in the regions that bear a lot of weight from the body itself, such as the coccyx or the sacrum.
How to Treat Pressure Ulcers at Home?
The best way to treat pressure sores is to prevent them from forming. Although this may be easier said than done, preventing pressure ulcers have some steps that can be taken to improve your odds of avoiding bedsores altogether and improve your healing process.
- First, you can prevent pressure sores by keeping the skin clean and dry. Skincare can be done with simple products like petroleum jelly, which should be applied liberally at least once a day, mild soap should be used to wash. Keeping your skin dry is also important; use foam pads under your arms when you sleep to prevent further moisture retention.
- Second, pressure ulcer prevention can also be achieved by avoiding tight clothes. Clothes made of wool or other rough fibers can irritate healthy skin and lead to bedsores or increase the risk of pressure ulcers.
- Third, be aware of how you sleep. Keep your hips elevated by using a pillow or foam wedge when sleeping on your side. And avoid sleeping in the fetal position; try to keep your back straight or prop yourself up with pillows if needed.
- Fourth, exercise your legs to relieve pressure. If you are bedridden or otherwise unable to get up, massage your feet and legs at least twice a day. It will help stimulate the muscles and prevent blood from pooling in the lower body which causes decreased blood flow. Lying in bed for long periods without leaving the same position will increase your risk assessment of developing decubitus ulcers.
- Fifth, be sure to eat essential nutrients, which are high in vitamins C and E, which improve skin health because poor nutrition leads to a pressure sore. For patients who are overweight, this is one of the best ways to promote skin health and reduce the risk of pressure sores because healthy eating helps sores heal.
Since pressure sores are often associated with a lack of mobility, it's important to get regular exercise and stimulate a constant flow of blood when you're healthy enough to do so. Go for a walk every day, change position, or even swim if your family physicians say it's medically safe for you.
Physical activity can effectively impact your skincare and keep the blood supply moving through the body.
It's important to note that certain treatments for bedsores (such as moist wound dressings, balanced diet, surgery for removing dead tissue) can also help treat infections, so be sure to consult your doctor before taking any action.
If you suspect an infection has developed, seek medical care immediately. Your doctor also may refer you to a physical therapist with medical education to teach you how to avoid deadly wounds.
What Causes Pressure Sores in Nursing Homes
Pressure ulcers are one of the biggest dangers for elders in nursing homes. They can increase the chance of infections, cause chronic pain and lead to mobility problems.
Although bedsores can affect anyone, they are most commonly found among patients who have limited sensation in their limbs or difficulty getting up independently. Elderly people with compromised immune systems are also more at risk for pressure ulcers.
What Can You Do to Prevent Pressure Ulcers?
The best way to prevent bedsores is to stay mobile. When you have limited sensation in your extremities, it's important to get up every 2-3 hours and move around so that your skin doesn't stay pressed against a surface for too long.
It is especially important when you're in bed. Ensure that your nursing home employees understand the importance of this, and encourage them to check on you regularly.
If you are unable to change positions on your own, try using a special pressure-relieving mattress or pillow designed to move with your body without creating new pressure points. If you feel pressure, speak up!
Nurses and other caregivers should be willing to change your position and rotate your mattress any time you request it. Don't be afraid to ask for help, and always remember that this is a medical condition that is treatable with the right precautions.
Complications of Pressure Sores
Pressure sores are often painful, but they can also lead to further complications if untreated. They can increase the risk of infections in open wounds and make it hard for people to move independently. In turn, this increases the chance that patients will develop more pressure ulcers or other serious conditions like bone infections (osteomyelitis).
If pressure sores aren't treated in a timely manner, they can develop into full-thickness wounds. It means that the ulcer will have cut through the skin and reached the tissue below.
Full-thickness wounds need immediate medical treatment if there's any chance of saving surrounding healthy tissue and preventing dead tissue.
However, beyond 24 hours old, full-thickness wounds won't heal on their own and will require surgical intervention.
At this point, the muscle, fat, and bone tissue have been injured, so there's no guarantee that a pressure ulcer can be fully repaired, especially if dead tissue is present. Even if the wound can heal, it may leave scarring or contractures.
Although some pressure ulcers can be prevented, it's essential that your loved one receive the proper treatment if they do occur. If you have a family member who is at risk for bedsores or has recently developed one, contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to make sure their rights are protected and they receive adequate care.
Risk Factors of Developing Decubitus Ulcers, Pressure Sores and Wounds
Those in the following categories are at an increased risk of developing bedsores:
- People with joint problems (such as arthritis)
- Those with limited mobility (and who spend most of their day in one position)
- People suffering from paralysis or immobility in all four limbs
- The obese or overweight
- The elderly
- People with diabetes or poor blood circulation
Decubitus Ulcers, Pressure Wounds Advanced Stages
In the early stages, pressure sores will simply cause redness on the skin. When it progresses to a secondary stage, the area around the sore may become blistered (an open wound) and swollen with a crater-like appearance.
In later stages, pressure ulcers can develop a white or yellow appearance and can even penetrate all the way through the skin, exposing the underlying tissue. Over time, life-threatening tissue damage and dead tissue in the deeper layers will appear.
Diagnosis of a Pressure Ulcer
Bedsores are diagnosed based on the lesions' depth, length, and width. Your doctor will look at your skin to see how deep the sore is, then use this information to help determine the appropriate treatment.
There are four different clinical staging classifications for pressure sores caused by restricted blood flow include:
- Stage I: Skin redness without damage to the underlying tissue
- Stage II: Skin damage that has not yet broken through to the muscle or bone
- Stage III: Bedsore that has broken through the skin and reached muscle or bone
- Stage IV: Full thickness wound breaks through all skin layers and reaches to fat, muscles, and bone, causing tissue damage and dead tissue
Hiring a Caregiver Abuse Lawyer to Resolve a Personal Injury Compensation Claim
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS),developing bedsores in the hospital, nursing home, or home are “never events,” meaning they are almost always preventable when the staff follows caregiving procedures and wound protocol.
Did you or a loved one develop an avoidable pressure sore? If so, you are likely entitled to receive compensation for your damages.
Contact us at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
We accept all personal injury cases on contingency, meaning you pay nothing until we resolve your compensation claim in a settlement or a jury award.