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What are the stages of pressure sores?

Pressure sores (also known as "bedsores") are a common problem among seniors and people who are suffering from conditions that leave them bedfast. The pressure of their own bodies against the mattress they're on literally causes the tissue in their skin and muscles to break down, causing painful sores that can turn necrotic very easily.

Don't be fooled, however, by a nursing home's insistence that pressure sores are inevitable and can happen overnight. Pressure sores happen in stages.

Stage one

The reduced blood flow in the area where the sore is starting to develop can produce changes in the victim's skin color or sensory perceptions. The skin may feel too hot or too cold, it may appear blanched or reddened. Patients may complain that it hurts or itches. If addressed quickly, a serious pressure sore can still be avoided because a stage one sore can heal within a couple of days.

Stage two

When a sore progresses to stage two, the victim's skin will have an open wound or what appears to be a blister. The sore will be actively painful and distressing.

Stage two pressure sores can take up to three weeks to heal, with appropriate treatment.

Stage three

Pressure sores that have reached the third stage leave the fat beneath the skin exposed. The sore may be filled with infection, be oozing or draining and have a foul odor. The skin around the sore may be dead and black.

This is an emergency that has to be treated with antibiotics and intensive care. They can take months to heal.

Stage four

Once the sore has exposed muscle or bone, it can be incredibly difficult to heal. The skin around the sore may need to be removed, and the victim needs intensive care. The sore may no longer be painful -- only because the nerves in the tissue have died.

If your loved one developed pressure sores while in a nursing home, hospital, or extended care facility, find out more about your legal options.

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