Bedsores can be dangerous, even deadly, if left untreated

Exercise, Diet can prevent condition

Special to the Herald-Leader,Debra PurcellApril 29, 2013 

Purcell, CB health

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Living a healthy lifestyle is the key to staying healthy. We are consumed with talk shows and advertisements on all sorts of health topics. But one topic that doesn't get much attention is pressure ulcers.

Also called bedsores, pressure ulcers are areas of breakdown in the skin. This usually occurs over areas where there is little cushion between the bone and the skin, commonly the tailbone (coccyx), the heels and the hips. Pressure ulcers can develop even with the best of care. There are many risk factors for the development of pressure ulcers including immobility, poor nutrition, age and debilitating illness.

Pressure ulcers are usually a result of lying or sitting in one position for too long. The blood supply to the area is severely diminished leading to death of the surrounding tissue. As time goes on, an open sore, or ulcer, will develop, which is usually extremely difficult to heal and may even lead to death.

Those caring for loved ones at home need to be aware of this complication. Early recognition of the development coupled with early interventions can greatly improve the outcome. Early warning signs include redness to an area that does not go away once pressure is relieved. Further injury to the tissue results in purple and sometimes black discolorations to the skin. As the injury progresses, the skin opens and exposes the tissues below the skin level. In the presence of infection, there is most always pain and foul odor.

Prevention is the key to avoiding pressure ulcer development. Exercise and mobility efforts are essential to avoid too much pressure on any one area.

Frequent repositioning and turning are simple measures anyone can perform. Eating a healthy diet with enough protein also plays an important role. Using specialty support surfaces such as mattresses and cushions can also help.

Baptist Health Lexington has developed a successful multidisciplinary pressure ulcer prevention program for patients, and the hospital serves as a mentor facility regarding pressure ulcer prevention at the request of the Kentucky Hospital Association.

If you or someone you know is at risk for developing pressure ulcers, perform regular inspections of the skin so you can identify problems early. Also, talk to your healthcare provider about other preventative measures you can do.

Debra Purcell, a certified wound and ostomy nurse, practices at Baptist Health Lexington.

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