Are Bed Sores Painful?

By Nursing Home Law Center

Bedsores PainfulThe simple answer is yes. Bedsores can be extremely painful. It is essentially an open wound, and usually develops in areas of the body that are hard to avoid putting pressure on. Even the most mundane of activities can cause serious pain when a patient has a bedsore.

A bedsore is also known as a pressure sore or ulcer, or a decubitus ulcer.

What Are Bedsores?

Bedsores are open wounds on the body. They result from pressure applied continuously over the same area. This continuous pressure cuts off the circulation and deprives the area of oxygen. Thus, deprived of oxygen, the tissue in the area begins to die.

A pressure sore will grow more severe over time if not treated, passing through four different stages. Those four stages are:

  • Stage I. The bedsore is a red patch of skin, not yet broken open. It may be hard and warm as well as swollen.
  • Stage II. The skin has broken and now there are abrasions and possibly blisters. Infection has become a risk due to the open wound.
  • Stage III. The bedsore now resembles a shallow crater. The skin has worn away to reveal the underlying tissue. The infection risk is elevated now.
  • Stage IV. Stage IV is life-threatening and caregivers must immediately treat the wound and prevent further progression. At stage IV the tissue has opened to reveal muscle and bone underneath. The infection risk is extremely high.

Where Do Bedsores Develop on the Body?

There is no part of the body that is immune to the formation of pressure sores. However, due to basic human anatomy, there are some parts of the body that are more likely to be forced to sustain pressure from the body’s weight against a surface. Also, fat serves as a cushion against such pressure, so fatty parts of the body are less likely to develop bedsores, but it can still occur.

The most common areas for bedsores include:

  • Back of head
  • Ankles
  • Heels
  • Hips
  • Lower back
  • Knees
  • Spine

Who is Most at Risk for Developing Bedsores?

Contrary to what some may believe, anyone can develop a bedsore. All that is required is unrelieved pressure and time. However, certain factors can increase the risk. These include:

  • Paralysis. Since immobility against pressure is the proximate cause of bedsores, paralyzed patients are at greatest risk. Quadriplegics cannot move any of their limbs, and paraplegics may find it difficult to move their legs.
  • Coma. Comatose patients do not move at all. When we sleep we roll over and turn around, which relieves pressure on some parts and distributes it to other parts. Comatose patients do not do this and need caregivers to turn them.
  • Weakness. Some elderly patients and even young patients who are sick lack the strength to move or move too infrequently. Unless assisted by caregivers, they are at elevated risk of developing bedsores.
  • Smoking. Smokers have an inhibited ability to heal. Once a bedsore starts to form, it will progress more rapidly and heal more slowly in smokers.
  • Diabetes. Diabetics also have diminished healing capability. In addition, they may have reduced sensation in their limbs, which means they are less likely to notice when a bedsore first starts to form.
  • Atheroma. Patients with plaque buildup in their arteries will have compromised blood flow. This makes any pressure applied in a sustained fashion to their bodies even more problematic.
  • Dehydration. Dehydrated skin is at greater risk of damage and therefore more likely to develop bedsores.
  • Incontinence. For the same reason that babies can develop diaper rash, incontinent patients can develop bedsores. Caregivers must make sure their patients are cleaned after every incident.

A bedsore is an all-too-common affliction affecting many Americans from all walks of life. They are almost always preventable, but diligent care is required to keep patients healthy. The pain of the affliction and the cost of treatment should serve as inducement enough for caregivers to make sure their patients never come down with this ailment.

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