Spring 2006
Ask The Expert: Preventing and Treating Pressure Ulcers
 
Preventing and Treating Pressure Ulcers
 
William Butler, MD

My mother is in her 80s. She lives with me, and she's by no means as active as she was even last year. She spends most of her time in bed or in her favorite chair, when someone is there to help move her. She has been developing sores on her heels and backside. I'll first notice a red or purple spot that soon blisters or tears. It ends up turning into an open wound. How can I prevent these sores?

William Butler, MD, of the Wound Healing Center of Fairfield County, responds:

It sounds like your mother is developing pressure ulcers, also called bedsores. Most bedsores happen when soft tissue (skin, fat and muscle) undergoes prolonged pressure, especially between bones (such as the sacrum, just above the tailbone) and a mattress or chair seat. The constant pressure, with no relief from a change in position, interferes with blood flow. This deprives the tissue of oxygen and nutrients, leading to the sores you see. Factors such as dampness, chafing and inability to feel pain also contribute to pressure ulcers.

If your mother can walk, encourage her to get up and move around. Physical activity can relieve the pressure on her skin and improve her health in general.

To prevent pressure ulcers, or help catch them early when treatment is easier, your mother’s skin should be checked nightly for these problems:

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Redness of the skin or changes in skin color
  • Hot spots on the skin
  • Any wound or bruise that doesn’t go away in a week
  • Cracks in the skin, especially around the heels

    Tell your mother's physician promptly about any of these symptoms, and ask if a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach, such as is followed by the Wound Healing Center of Fairfield County, might be helpful.