What Does a Patient’s Albumin Level Have to do With Bed Sores?

AlbuminA bed sore is a type of skin injury that occurs when an area of skin loses blood circulation. Loss of circulation from pressure or friction on the skin surface – such as from spending too long in bed or sitting – can cause tissue death and form a sore on the skin. While prolonged pressure is the main cause of bed sores, it is not the only factor involved in bed sore development. An individual’s nutrition can also affect his or her likelihood of getting a pressure sore.

Poor Nutrition and Bed Sores

Poor nutrition is a known risk factor of bed sores. An individual with poor nutrition or malnourishment may not have the proper vitamins, nutrients, and proteins to sustain healthy skin. Nutrition directly affects the ability of the skin to resist damage, such as damage from lack of blood circulation. Poor nutrition or dehydration, therefore, could increase the risk of developing bed sores and other skin conditions and injuries.

Improper nutrition can also impact the ability of an individual to heal from a bed sore. Healthy skin may be able to replace damaged cells and eventually cover an exposed area of skin from a bed sore, but malnourished skin may not have the energy or proteins to do the same. This can lead to a nonhealing or recurring pressure ulcer. Delayed healing time can increase a patient’s risk of developing serious and life-threatening infections.

What is Albumin?

Albumin is a protein. The liver naturally creates albumin to keep fluids contained to the bloodstream, rather than permitting them to leak into other tissues. Albumin also carries important substances throughout your body. Without enough albumin, the body may not receive proper distributions of hormones, enzymes, and medications. An albumin deficiency could point to problems with the liver or kidneys. If the kidneys fail, urine may start to contain amounts of albumin.

If a person develops a bed sore, albumin and pre-albumin proteins react to the inflammatory processes in the skin. Proper levels of albumin can help facilitate healing. Inflammation will increase the number of cytokines, or immune system secretions, in the body. This in turn will pull albumin from around the veins and circulate it to the liver in a process that, in a healthy patient, will resolve inflammation and aid in healing. If enough albumin is not available in the body, it could hinder the healing process and prolong inflammation in a bed sore injury.

Albumin and Bed Sore Morbidity

Low levels of albumin can be an indicator of morbidity in a patient with a severe bed sore (stage three or four). This means a patient with an albumin deficiency is more at risk of dying from his or her bed sore injury. It is important for a physician to identify risk factors of low albumin in a patient prior to bed sore treatment. These factors can include unexpected weight loss, poor nutrition, lack of appetite, and slow wound healing. Symptoms of a liver or kidney problem and low albumin include:

  • Jaundice (yellow skin)
  • Fluid retention and swelling
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Thin hair
  • Itchy or dry skin

An albumin urine test can assess a patient’s protein levels and detect a deficiency in time for a doctor to recommend treatment. Aggressive intervention may be necessary to prevent a bed sore from becoming fatal. This may involve weight monitoring and improving the patient’s nutritious food intake. Restoring the patient’s albumin levels and ensuring proper nutrition can help a bed sore heal and avoid infections. Otherwise, the patient’s body may be unable to control the inflammatory response from a bed sore, and the patient could suffer serious health complications or death.

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