Spinal Cord Injury Skin Management


Related pages: Skin & Pressure Sores & Skin & Pressure Sores II

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What is skin?

Your skin is much more than an outer surface for the world to see. It protects you from bacteria, dirt and other foreign objects and the ultraviolet rays of the sun, and contains the nerve endings that let you know if something is hot or cold, soft or hard, sharp or dull. Your skin also plays an important role in regulating your body's fluids and temperature.

Diagram of skin Layers
 

Below the smooth, hairy outer skin, or epidermis, that we see every day is a thick, strong and elastic layer of tissue known as the dermis. The dermis is richly supplied with blood vessels, sweat and oil glands, and nerve endings.
 

How to take care of your skin

NUTRITION:
To keep your skin healthy, eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of protein foods, fresh fruits and vegetables and liquids. If you are having a skin problem, such as a pressure sore or a healing surgical incision, you should increase your intake of protein (lean meats, dairy foods and legumes), carbohydrates (breads, cereals), vitamins A, B6, C, E, and zinc. Extra iron may be needed if you are anemic.

CIRCULATION:
With a lack of air circulation, feeling and movement daily skin care is very important in order to avoid infections, sores, and irritations. The skin is served by a large number of blood vessels, and adequate circulation is needed to maintain skin health. You can help ensure a healthy blood supply by considering the following suggestions:

Tips for maintaining good skin care

Skin inspection
Inspecting the skin daily is extremely important as pressure sores and infections could occur very quickly. Skin should be inspected at least once a day.  Look for reddened areas, scrapes, cuts, bruises or any kind of discoloration out of the norm.  Areas that need special attention are the groin area, behind knees, the areas around the ankles and elbows, and your posterior (hips and tailbone areas should be checked carefully).

The only way to know if your skin is healthy and intact is to look at it regularly. In areas where sensation (feeling) is decreased, skin inspection is essential and should become a habit. Plan it as a part of your regular routine, during a time when you are undressed anyway -- like after a shower, before dressing in the morning or after undressing in the evening.

Position Padding
 

If you are unable to see some parts of your body, use a mirror or teach another person to check your skin for you. Long handled mirrors and other specially designed mirrors are available. Check all of your bony prominences, or areas where the bones protrude slightly below the skin (see illustrations below for the locations and names of these areas).

[Figure 2: Lying on Back
 

What to Look for
[Figure 3: Seated]Look for any reddened areas, rashes, cuts, bruises, scrapes, or indentations from seams or elastic binding. Check also for blisters, bumps, insect bites, dry flaky skin or pimples. Check toenails for any redness or pus formation around the end of the nail.

Whenever you notice a problem, try to figure out its cause and make any changes necessary to prevent further problems. The first step in curing any skin problem is to eliminate the cause.
 

Preventing skin injuries