Treating a Hidden Problem: Pressure Ulcers, aka Bedsores

There is a hidden epidemic that affects 4.5 million people each year, yet no one talks about it.  Pressure ulcers are no longer referred to as bedsores, but the name change hasn’t encouraged discussion about these wounds that develop when there is prolonged pressure between the skin and bone.

“An aging population, along with rising rates of diabetes and obesity, mean more and more people are at risk for pressure ulcers,” explains Katherine J. Rowland, chief clinical officer for National Healing Corporation, which partners with hospitals around the nation to treat pressure ulcers and other chronic wounds.  “It is important to become informed and know how to prevent them and how to treat them so that they do not get worse and more difficult to cure.”

Pressure ulcers occur when a person remains in one position for too long without shifting his or her weight, which decreases the blood supply to the area causing skin and tissue to break down.  If not properly treated, these areas may evolve into wounds that can extend down to bone.

The primary treatment is to relieve or reduce the pressure.  Additional care may also involve removing the non-living tissue from around the wound with surgical instruments or with newly developed dressings and chemicals.

The first visible signs of a pressure ulcer for those with fair skin may be a red area on the skin that doesn’t fade or, for those with darker complexions, persistent areas of red, blue or purple with a different skin temperature or texture.

In addition to the elderly and people with diabetes, others at risk are those with limited mobility, poor nutrition, incontinence and conditions that prevent blood flow and cause lack of sensation.

The experts at The Mercy Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center, a National Healing Corporation Wound Healing Center, offer these tips for lowering your risk:

  • Change your position every 15 minutes when sitting and at least every two hours in bed.
  • Donut-type pillows can harm tissue. Purchase commercially available pressure reducing cushions and mattresses, but avoid those that resemble egg-crate foam.
  • Place a pillow under your calves to prevent your heels from touching the bed and use pillows and foam wedges to keep ankles and knees apart.
  • In treating incontinence, cleanse skin and use a topical moisture barrier.  Avoid using plastic-backed linen-saving devices or diapers.
  • Use mild soaps and water when bathing and apply skin moisturizers to prevent dryness.
  • If confined to bed, do not raise the head of the bed more than 30 degrees and use an overhead trapeze to assist in movement.
  • Seek medical treatment if ulcers show signs of infection, including increased pain at the wound site, redness or swelling spreading away from the wound, a foul wound odor, change in color or amount of drainage from the wound, or if you experience fever, chills, nausea or vomiting.

About the Mercy Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center:

The Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center at Mercy Medical Center is located at 1950 Rosaline Avenue, Suite A.  A National Healing Corporation Wound Center, it specializes in the treatment of chronic wounds and non-responsive conditions and offers hospital-based outpatient wound care and hyperbaric oxygen therapy as well as disease management and diabetes care.  The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has awarded National Healing Corporation Disease-Specific Care Certification for wound care.  Call (530) 245-4801 or log on to: redding.mercy.org/wound for more information.

-from press release

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