Each year, about one million people in the United States develop bed sores at a treatment cost of $1 billion. The sores are most often found in elderly patients. Approximately two-thirds of all bed sores occur in people over age 70. People living with paralysis are especially at risk, as is anyone who is bedridden, uses a wheelchair or is unable to change positions without help. Bed sores afflict 10 percent of all hospital patients, 25 percent of nursing home residents and 60 percent of quadriplegics. The sores are a direct cause of death in about eight percent of paraplegics.
Bed sores can be life-threatening to elderly and disabled patients. Unfortunately, people who have been successfully treated for bed sores have a 90 percent chance of developing them again. While the pressure sores themselves can usually be cured, about 60,000 deaths per year are attributed to complications caused by bed sores.
Bed sores range from mild inflammation to ulceration (breakdown of tissue) and deep wounds that involve muscle and bone. This painful condition usually starts with shiny red skin that quickly blisters and deteriorates into open sores. These sores become a target for bacterial contamination and will often harbor life-threatening infection. Bed sores are not contagious or cancerous, although the most serious complication of chronic bed sores is the development of malignant degeneration, which is a type of cancer.
Bed sores are areas of damaged skin and tissue that develop when sustained pressure cuts off circulation to parts of your body. Some of the most vulnerable areas are the skin on your buttocks, hips and heels. Without adequate blood flow, the affected tissue dies.
The sores begin as tender, inflamed patches that develop when a person's weight rests against a hard surface, exerting pressure on the skin and soft tissue over bony parts of the body. For example, skin covering a weight-bearing part of the body, such as a knee or hip, is pressed between a bone and a bed, chair, another body part, splint, or other hard object.