Prevention is the best medicine, especially with a painful condition like bedsores, because bedsores are easier to prevent than to treat [source: Mayo Clinic].
Bedsores can develop quickly on people who are immobile or bedridden, and even a few hours of lying or sitting in one position can cause the beginnings of a bedsore. Certain areas of the body are more likely to suffer from sustained pressure, including the back of the head, heels, hips, lower back, spine and shoulder blades [source: Haggerty]. Shifting position to relieve pressure on these spots can go a long way toward preventing bedsores.
Daily exercise can also increase blood flow throughout the body. Even bedridden people can perform stretches and simple exercises in bed [source: AETNA InteliHealth]. People who can't leave their beds or who use wheelchairs regularly should consult a doctor or physical therapist to learn what activities they can do to increase blood flow and reduce their immobility.
Treatment methods mentioned previously can also be used as preventive activities. Eating healthy food, drinking adequate fluids, keeping the skin clean and dry, and avoiding chemicals and harsh detergents can all reduce a person's susceptibility to bedsores. People concerned about bedsores should also keep bed sheets clean, dry and free from crumbs and particles to reduce friction. When leaving the bed, a person should be lifted off the mattress instead of being pulled along the sheet [source: AETNA InteliHealth]. And, as mentioned previously, certain pillows, seat cushions and mattresses can reduce pressure on specific body parts. Special beds that circulate air, which lessen pressure on the body, are also available [source: Collison].
Another preventive measure is appropriate body positioning. Lying on one's side generates less pressure than lying directly on one's hipbones. Separating the knees and ankles with small pillows or pads also helps. And limiting skin-to-skin contact means less friction and moisture on the skin, reducing the likelihood that bedsores will develop [source: Mayo Clinic].
Understanding the causes of bedsores, taking appropriate preventive measures and pursuing treatment early will all help reduce the painful effects of this condition. For more information, check out the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- AETNA InteliHealth. "Bedsores (Decubitus Ulcers)." (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/EM/9339/10566.html
- American Academy of Family Physicians. "Pressure Sores." FamilyDoctor.org. September 2000. (Accessed August 4, 2009)http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/seniors/endoflife/039.printerview.html
- American Cancer Society, Inc. "Skin (Pressure) Sores." April 27, 2009. (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MBC/content/MBC_2_3X_Skin_Pressure_Sores.asp
- American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging. "Pressure Ulcers (Bedsores)." March 17, 2005. (Accessed August 4, 2009)http://www.healthinaging.org/agingintheknow/chapters_ch_trial.asp?ch=30
- Collison, Daniel W. "Pressure Sores." The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. October 2008. (Accessed August 5, 2009)http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec18/ch205/ch205a.html
- Haggerty, Maureen and L. Lee Culvert. "Bedsores." Encyclopedia of Surgery. (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/A-Ce/Bedsores.html
- Mayo Clinic. "Bedsores (pressure sores): Prevention." (Accessed August 4, 2009)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bedsores/DS00570/DSECTION=prevention
- Mayo Clinic. "Bedsores (pressure sores): Symptoms." (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bedsores/DS00570/DSECTION=symptoms
- Russo, C. Allison and Elixhauser, Anne. "Hospitalizations Related to Pressure Sores, 2003." Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. April 2006. (Accessed August 4, 2009)
- University of Washington School of Medicine. "Taking Care of Pressure Sores." (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://sci.washington.edu/info/pamphlets/pressure_sores.asp
- Zeller, John L., "Pressure Ulcers." Journal of the American Medical Association. August 23, 2006. (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/296/8/1020.pdf