Every year, thousands of people suffer from bedsores (medical name: Decubitus). Decubitus results from deformation of the skin’s upper layer. This deformation can be caused by longer periods of pressure; for example, by lying or sitting in the same position for a long period of time. Another possible cause is shear forces (friction). This happens when somebody sits in a semi-sitting position for a longer period of time. A consequence of skin deformation is that the blood flow will locally decrease. This results in a lack of oxygen in some parts of the skin and the tissue underneath. Skin cells then die, and superficial or deeper wounds can appear.
Besides pressure and shear forces, temperature, moisture level and ventilation are other important external factors for the development and prevention of decubitus. Together these factors are called the microclimate of the skin. Everything that touches the body, such as clothes, bedding, matrasses and pillows, has a strong influence on these factors. The right choice of materials and care can therefore slow down the development, or even prevent, decubitus.
There are several stages of Decubitus. In the mildest stage the skin merely looks red and the decubitus is not always immediately recognized. When there is an increased risk of bedsores, it is important to check the skin for red areas regularly. In this stage it is still relatively easy to intervene and prevent worse stages!
Decubitus mostly occurs in areas of the body where there is no layer of fat and the bone is located directly below the skin surface. This includes the sacrum (tailbone), the back of the head, the heels and the elbows.
In the other parts of the body the so-called subcutaneous fat layer (a layer of fat directly underneath the skin surface) equalizes the pressure. The layer of fat then functions as a soft pillow between the bone and the skin that can distribute the pressure on the skin. Depending on a person’s positioning/posture, bedsores generally occur on some of the risk spots. These spots are visualized in the figure.
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