Pressure sores – what are they and how to prevent them ?
Also known as” bed sores” and now I learn “pressure ulcers”-I was a student nurse a long time ago and terminology has changed!.
They range in severity from patches of discoloured skin to open wounds that show the bone or muscle underneath!
How do they develop ?
Pressure ulcers develop when a large amount of pressure is put on skin over a short period of time. Or, when less pressure is applied over a longer period of time. This is usually when an elderly person is bed-bound.
The pressure upsets the blood flow through the skin and lacking a good supply the affected skin lacks oxygen and nutrients and begins to break down, leading to an ulcer forming.
Type 2 diabetes can also make a person more vulnerable to pressure ulcers.
Who is affected?
Just under half a million people in the UK will develop at least one pressure ulcer each year. More often than not they are people with an underlying health condition.
1 in 20 people who are admitted to hospital with a sudden illness will probably develop a pressure ulcer.
People over 70 years old are particularly vulnerable to pressure ulcers as they likely to have reduced mobility and thinning of the skin due to ageing.
Treating and preventing pressure ulcers
Treatment for these ulcers include dressings, creams and gels to increase the healing process and relieve pressure. The most serious cases require surgery.
For some pressure ulcers are an inconvenience needing a small amount of nursing care. For others, they can be serious and lead to life-threatening complications, such as blood poisoning and gangrene.
Pressure ulcers are unpleasant, upsetting and sometimes difficult to treat. Importantly there are a range of techniques used to prevent pressure ulcers developing in the first place.
- Changing a person’s position regualarly
- Providing equipment, such as specially designed mattresses and cushions, to protect the parts of the body at risk such as ankles,elbows and bottoms.
Prevention is easier than cure as with all ulcers and if you have an elderly person you care for in hospital or a nursing home it is an idea to check the areas at risk of sores as mentioned above.