Pressure ulcers and ways to manage them
Monday 26th January
Also known as bedsores or pressure sores, a pressure ulcer is an injury that breaks down the skin and the underlying tissue when the skin is placed under pressure.
How do pressure ulcers develop and what are the symptoms?
When the skin is placed under a large amount of pressure for a short period of time, the extra pressure disrupts the flow of blood through the skin. When the affected skin becomes starved of oxygen and nutrients it begins to break down and an ulcer starts to form. Early signs can be patches of red or white and hot or cold skin, and in some cases the skin may take on a bruised appearance. Moisture can also contribute to the formation of pressure ulcers as it can break down the outer layer of skin (epidermis).
Which areas are most at risk?
Pressure ulcers are more likely to develop on areas of thin skin that are in prolonged contact with a supporting surface, known as interface pressure. Areas most at risk include:
- Back of the head
- Rims of ears
- Knees, ankles, heels or toes
- Coccyx (the small bone at the base of your spine, also known as the tailbone)
Wheelchair users may also be susceptible to pressure ulcers on:
- The buttocks
- The backs or arms and legs
- The back of the hip bone
Ageing skin is prone to pressure ulcers as lost elasticity, reduced blood flow and a decreasing amount of fat under the skin means damage to the skin is more likely.
How can you prevent pressure ulcers?
Frequently changing position and shifting your weight as often as possible are the most important thing you can do to prevent pressure ulcers developing. For those who are unable to change position independently, it’s important to be turned or moved regularly.
Protecting your skin from pressure is of up-most importance if you have any mobility problems. Specialist equipment is available to protect the most vulnerable areas and to relieve pressure on the body such as cushions, mattresses and pillows.
What to do if you have pressure ulcers?
The key thing to do is to avoid putting pressure on areas that are vulnerable to pressure ulcers or where you have symptoms of developing one. Just as moving regularly should prevent pressure ulcers forming, changing position will relieve the pressure on ulcers that have already developed.
Maintaining a healthy diet is also important, as is staying hydrated. A diet lacking in nutrients such as vitamin c, zinc and protein could mean your skin is more vulnerable and therefore more prone to developing ulcers