Bedsores: Causes and Treatments

Bedsores are areas of damaged skin and tissue that develop when sustained pressure cuts off circulation to parts of your body. People on bed rest or who use wheelchairs regularly are especially at risk. See more pictures of skin problems.
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For many people, bed rest is a welcome respite when recovering from a cold, the flu or a minor injury or illness. For people who are bedridden because of major illnesses, disability or old age, however, extended hours in bed can be a source of real pain. Prolonged bed rest can cause injury to skin and tissue on various parts of the body, a condition commonly known as bedsores.

A bedsore, also known as a pressure ulcer or decubitus ulcer, is an area of skin that's become damaged from constant pressure and prolonged lack of movement. Constant pressure decreases blood flow to the area, which causes skin cells to die and the skin itself to break down. The damaged area eventually becomes an open wound, causing further damage and possible infection to muscle and bone tissue below [source: Zeller].

Bedsores most often develop among people who use wheelchairs regularly or who cannot leave their beds. Their inability to move or turn over makes them especially susceptible [source: Mayo Clinic]. Bedsores are a common problem in hospitals. In 2003, nearly half a million U.S. hospital patients suffered from bedsores during their stay. That number represented a 63 percent increase from 1993 statistics [source: Russo].

But bedsores don't just happen in hospitals. Many people who are on bed rest at home or who use wheelchairs in their daily lives are vulnerable to the damaging effects of reduced mobility. These people often deal with bedsores on a regular basis, so it's important for them and their caregivers to understand the causes and symptoms of bedsores as well as the treatments and preventive measures.

Read on to learn how to prevent and treat this common skin condition.