5 Signs You (or A Loved One) Are at Risk for Bedsores

If a debilitating illness or injury has landed you or a loved one immobilized in bed, these tips are for you. Lying in bed or a recliner all day means you’re conserving more energy and taking it easy on your body, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, inactivity and immobilization put you at greater risk for blood circulation issues, respiratory infections like pneumonia, and bedsores (or pressure ulcers).

Bedsores occur when internal pressure from bonier protrusions in the body grows and grows, pressing deeper into your tissue and cutting off blood flow. Left untreated, this can lead to skin breakdown, tissue decay, and life-threatening infection. If you or a loved one are bed-limited, your old mattress may just need to be swapped out for one made from a different material. There are a handful of ways to prevent bedsores including keeping an eye out for the following signs and clues:

Skin Discoloration: A reddish discoloration on the skin where a protrusive bone is clearly applying pressure is actually the first sign of the beginning of a bedsore. On someone with a darker complexion, it may be even less noticeable. This is the best stage to catch a bedsore as you can take preventative steps to keep it from progressing. Alternating positions, even slightly shifting yourself or your loved one from side to side with pillows every few hours, helps relieve the body of the constant pressure it was applying to the vulnerable area. Barrier creams applied to the discolored area can also help keep moisture and contaminants from degrading the skin.

Loss in Body Weight: For many people with an existing disease or medical condition, their mobility might not be the only thing that is impaired. Appetite may also suffer because of lack of energy, cognition, or even side effects from a medicine you are taking. Not eating enough calories can result in rapid weight loss which reduces the internal (and external) padding you once had on protrusive bones. With less tissue to cushion bony areas like the shoulder blades, hips, coxic, and elbows, pressure ulcers are more likely to occur.

Old Mattress: If you or a loved one are bed-limited, your old mattress may just need to be swapped out for one made from a different material. Regular spring mattresses with metal coils, cotton batting, polyester, and foam simply don’t support and distribute weight enough for someone who spends most of their waking (and sleeping) hours in bed. More versatile solutions like memory foam or gel mattress toppers, or an alternating air pressure mattress, provide more weight disbursement, decrease the pressure placed on your bonier body parts, and support a healthier spine alignment.

Poor Diet: Malnutrition, especially for someone who is mobily limited to a bed or recliner, can be as simple as not getting enough vital nutrients to support healthy body functions, like tissue repair. People lacking protein, vitamin C, zinc, potassium and iron in their diet are more susceptible to skin breakdown and decay of vulnerable tissues which are depleted of oxygen due to a bedsore. Foods including lean meats, fatty fish, avocados, broccoli, beets, dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, and pumpkin seeds can promote tissue repair and growth which helps heal wounds like bedsores.

Smoking: While smoking is generally known for its dangerous links to lung cancer and heart disease, it’s important to note as well that smoking while confined to a bed or recliner can increase your risk for bedsores. Smoking constricts blood vessels making it harder for the body to circulate oxygen and vital nutrients to your organs and tissues. For an area like a pressure ulcer where blood flow is already diminished, smoking can seriously exacerbate the problem.

Proactively seeking out solutions for preventing bedsores may be as simple as a couple diet tweaks, shifting yours (or your loved one’s) body weight regularly, and being super body aware with visual scans daily to keep an eye out for the beginnings of a pressure ulcer. Catching and treating bedsores early can make a huge difference in the health, pain levels, and general well being of someone who is confined to bed, no matter their age.

 

Image courtesy of [John Kasawa] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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