Sacral ulcers are skin injuries that occur in the sacral region of the body, near the lower back and spine. These ulcers fall under the umbrella of pressure sores, which are more commonly referred to as bedsores. All types of pressure sores tend to form due to lethargy and extended pressure on a part of the body with lesser amounts of fat to absorb it. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this pressure prevents blood from reaching certain parts of the body. Without proper blood flow, the skin in the area that is enduring pressure can start to die off. As this happens, open wounds can form and damage a person’s muscle tissue while also threatening further infection.
The development of sacral ulcers often suggests that the person in question has endured long-term pressure on their tailbone. These injuries often manifest when a person has been left sitting or lying down for several days to weeks at a time. Unfortunately, the CDC reports that more than one in 10 nursing home residents has pressure ulcers, including sacral ulcers.
Why and How Sacral Ulcers Develop
Sacral ulcers appear on the lower back, tailbone, and rear. The conditions that are more likely to cause sacral ulcers to form include:
- Low mobility – If a person is unable to move on their own, they will not be able to relieve the type of pressure that causes sacral ulcers. As such, bed-bound individuals or those with limited opportunities for activity will face greater exposure to sacral pressure than an otherwise healthy individual.
- Lack of ability to communicate – Even if a person does have the ability to move, they may not have the ability to recognize and communicate the pain they feel when sacral ulcers begin to develop. This is especially true for those who have a physical or mental inability to express themselves or acknowledge their pain.
- Excessive moisture – Individuals who suffer from incontinence, sweat heavily, or live in high-humidity locations without the ability to move freely will endure more friction when sitting or lying down.
- Exposure to friction – In a similar vein, long-term exposure to friction from an uncomfortable bed, sheets, or other surfaces can aggravate the skin and make it more sensitive to the kind of pressure that causes ulcers.
- Poor diet – A person’s body needs a balance of nutrients to fight off infections. If a person does not have access to the food and water they need to remain healthy, they will likely struggle to fight the infections that sacral ulcers can elicit in the body.
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Assessing the Severity of Sacral Ulcers
Sacral ulcers develop in stages and should be treated depending on their severity. These stages are:
- Stage One – Skin has not yet started to die away, but the area appears irritated and discolored as well as being tender to the touch.
- Stage Two – The skin around the sensitive area begins to die off, and a small indent begins to form at the pressure site. If exposed to additional bacteria, the wound may develop pus and begin to leak.
- Stage Three – The wound no longer resembles a blister and is now open to several layers of skin. It will have a foul smell and will not stop producing pus or other fluids. The revealed tissue will be visibly unhealthy or discolored.
- Stage Four – The ulcers have reached and damaged nerves, muscle, or bone. The odor will resemble rotting meat. According to the CDC, the ulcers themselves will be at significant risk for sepsis.
If a person has attentive and active caretakers, treating sacral ulcers can be a straightforward process. Ulcers still in Stage One or Stage Two need to be cleaned, and the patient should be rotated or moved on a schedule. By implementing these simple treatments, any present signs of damage can begin to fade.
When Sacral Ulcers Require Surgery
If you catch sacral ulcers early, then improving a person’s diet and keeping them active while cleaning the wounds can reverse the damage. Once a person starts to show symptoms of Stage Three development, most medical professionals recommend surgery as the most effective curative.
To remove the dead skin that results from untreated sacral pressure, medical professionals will use the methods most appropriate for the patient’s situation. These methods can include:
- Biological treatment
- Enzyme therapy
- Surgical excision
Once the dead skin is removed, the wound will most likely need to be repaired and covered as well.
Sacral Ulcers as a Sign of Neglect or Abuse
Sacral ulcers and other types of pressure sores or bedsores tend to indicate neglect or abuse when the patient in question resides in a nursing home or care facility. The presence of these sores, if unexplained by the person’s existing medical history, suggests a violation of a patient’s right to care.
If your loved one has developed sacral ulcers, a nursing home abuse lawyer can explain your options and help you take the next steps. Call our team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC today at 800-959-1444 to discuss your rights and potential compensation.