Why Bed Sores are so Serious And How to Prevent Them
It’s hard to understand how
something as common as a sore can be the cause of death for people who are
paralyzed or confined to their beds for long periods of time. Complications due
to a bed sore were what caused the death of Christopher Reeve. This was
difficult for many people to comprehend. Reeve had been getting state-of-the-art
therapies for paralysis for years, and it seemed like every time you turned
around, he had reached a new milestone. How could a sore have killed him?
In fact, bed sores have
remained one of the most frustrating aspects of care for people with paralysis.
The sores, also called pressure ulcers, affect more than one third of the people
who have spinal cord injuries. Complications from these sores kill about 60,000
Americans per year.
Bed sores develop when
there’s continuous pressure on the skin for a long period of time. Blood fails
to reach the place in the body that’s receiving the pressure. If the pressure is
not relieved, the tissue of the skin can become infected and die. The dead
tissue then breaks down, often creating a deep, open wound. Sometimes the wound
is so deep that it penetrates all the layers of the skin and reaches the bone.
Common areas of the body where bed sores develop include the buttocks and the
Research indicates that the
incidence of bed sores is increasing. According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, in 2003, one-third of people with spinal cord injuries
developed bed sores, compared with 23 percent in 1990.
Researchers from the
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of
Southern California and the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center
recommend the following steps to patients and caregivers to help reduce the risk
of bed sores:
- Check your whole body
every day for red patches, especially on the buttocks and heels.
- Work with an
occupational therapist to develop a plan that balances work, rest and leisure
time. Discuss how you will manage the balance if a sore develops.
- Change position every
hour to relieve pressure.
- Eat a healthy, balanced
diet and get enough rest.
- Tell your doctor right
away if you see a red patch.
- If you do develop a bed
sore, it’s important to take time off to rest in bed and keep all pressure off
It’s important to keep bed
sore management and avoidance in mind pretty much all the time. You day-to-day
decisions about how you spend your time should always take bed sore risk
reduction into account. Remember not to stay in one position too long when
you’re working, for example, even though it can be easy to “get lost” in your
work and forget to move. And above all, don’t let embarrassment stop you from
treating a bed sore. Early detection and treatment is essential to preventing
the serious infection that can develop if bed sores are caught too late.
The American Occupational Therapy Association;
Department of Veterans Affairs; National Spinal Cord Injury Association;