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Your skin is the largest organ of your body. It works as a protective covering around the body preventing harmful bacteria from entering it, and regulating bodily fluids, temperature and sensations.
Under usual circumstances, the skin is fully capable of repairing/restoring itself back to its normal healthy state. However, when one suffers a spinal cord injury (SCI), it is a different ball game altogether.
Suffering and treating SCI can be an extremely difficult and testing phase in the life of not just the patient, but also his family. If you or your loved one has been a victim of an SCI due to the negligence or recklessness of someone else, you need to bring that person to book with the help of an experienced attorney who specializes in handling such lawsuits.
SCI patients are, typically, unable to move without help. They are either bed-ridden or confined to a wheelchair for months together. Hence, they may be at a high risk for skin problems such as pressure sores, also known as bed sores or decubitus ulcers.
Pressure sores occur when a person lies or sits in one place or one position for a long period of time. This results in loss of muscle function, poor blood circulation and often inadequate nutrition which makes people with SCI vulnerable to developing pressure sores.
In such a condition, the patient can also lose sensation in his skin due to numbness. This inability to feel when something sharp or hot comes in contact with the skin can lead to cuts and/or burns. If such patients are left unattended, this condition can become life threatening.
What Is A Pressure Sore?
A pressure sore is akin to an injury to the skin and/or tissue underneath it. Since SCI patients sit or lie in the same position for long, the flow of blood to that part of the body gets cut off. This blocks the supply of oxygen and important nutrients to that part of the skin/tissue. When the tissue remains devoid of the nutrition required to maintain its health for long periods of time, it starts to degenerate and a pressure sore starts to form.
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Signs of a Pressure Sore
The extent of damage from pressure sores ranges from slight discoloration of the skin in the initial stages to open sores that go all the way to the bone when the sores get severe. Some of the other symptoms are as follows:
a) Reddened skin and/or white areas
b) Dry and flaky skin
c) Rashes, pimples, blisters
d) A frequent and prolonged presence of cuts, bruises, scratches, insect bites
e) Hard lumps beneath the skin surface
f) Marks from seams or elastic binding
Why You Need to Be Careful?
Many a time, pressure areas tend to go undetected or become visible only when it is too late. They are like pea-sized cysts that can develop under the skin. You need to be careful about noticing the early signs because these cysts can be very tricky. The patient may seem fine one day, but develop a weeping open pressure sore the next, which may require urgent treatment followed by a long period of bed rest.
Complications Caused By Pressure Sores
a) They can prove to be life threatening if left untreated for long.
b) The infection can spread to blood, the heart, and the bones if not contained in time.
c) Severe infections may result in amputation of limbs.
d) The patient may need prolonged bed rest.
e) In certain severe cases, the sores can also lead to Autonomic Dysreflexia.
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How to Keep Skin Healthy
Keeping the skin healthy is a result of eating a well-balanced diet, following good hygiene, getting the skin inspected regularly, and not lying in one place for long. These steps ensure that your skin is well nourished and lubricated with natural skin oils and receives steady blood supply.
Here are some tips for SCI patients and their caregivers to keep the skin healthy:
1. Try and keep your skin dry, as opposed to damp or wet. Skin that is wet from water, sweat and bodily waste matter will be more prone to infections and break-downs.
2. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid bathing everyday as doing so will rob your skin of its natural oils.
3. When you do bathe, make sure you pat dry the skin gently and thoroughly. Wiping roughly with the towel will hurt the skin.
4. If you need to get a massage done, use only mild lotions.
1. Consult a nutritionist to plan an ideal diet for your needs and make sure you eat a healthy balanced meal replete with the essential vitamins, proteins and iron.
2. Drink plenty of fluids (up to eight glasses) every day to keep your body hydrated.
3. In case you’re unable to consume solid foods, you can opt for pureed food. Through tube feeding, you can ensure that your body still receives all the required nutrients.
1. Look for early tell-tale signs of pressure sores by self-examining the skin. Take help of others as well in doing this, just in case you miss a spot.
2. Watch out for sores throughout your body, especially the bony areas. Check twice a day, using a hand-held mirror if required.
3. Pay special attention to redness, whiteness, blisters, rashes and openings in the skin. Should you notice something, bring it to the notice of your medical practitioner immediately for investigation.
4. Don’t forget to check the groin area.
Although taking care of the skin is a lifelong process, SCI patients need to exercise extra care and precaution to eliminate the possibility of complications. It is important to take proper measures to prevent a break-down of the skin as treating it can take very long. The above mentioned information should be useful in understanding some aspects of skin care when it comes to taking care of SCI patients.
Frank Pipolo is a 20-year professional executive and writer for Vanguard Attorneys, a 15-year old, Tampa based law firm specializing in auto, motorcycle, personal, and business accident related cases.