Pressure sores can occur in anyone who sits or lies still for a long period of time without moving. They occur most commonly in those who are elderly or ill and can be prevented by careful nursing care and by using protective measures such as foam mattresses. This article looks at the latest information regarding pressure sores and will hopefully provide you with the information that you need to discuss this issue with your doctor or other healthcare professional.
What are they?
Pressure sores are often described as areas of skin that become damaged and then turn into open wounds. Naturally when you lie or sit down you will tend to move your position so that you avoid pressure sores. However in those who are too ill or old to move themselves, pressure sores can develop. It is thought that these begin as your weight pressing down upon an area of skin stops the blood from circulation properly in this area. When blood does not circulate properly then the skin can break down and die. Another thing that can damage the skin is when you move or slip down in bed, as this creates friction that may peel already damaged and vulnerable skin. Also areas of skin that sit over bony prominences are at higher risk of developing pressure sores. You do not have to be old or ill as anyone who has difficulty with moving can develop a pressure sore. However you are most likely to get a pressure sore if you are very ill or unconscious, have had an operation, are very old, have a poor blood circulation, do not feel pain, are very overweight, or if you don’t eat or drink enough.
Pressure sores can cause pain in the same way that most other wounds can. They may also become infected and bleed and weep. Some of the most common places are where your skin can become squashed between a bone and another hard place such as a chair or a bed. You must be extra careful if you are caring for someone that their backbones, hip bones and the back of their heels are not allowed to sit on a hard surface for very long periods of time. If you notice any signs of skin damage such as a patch of discolored skin then you must alert the nurse or doctor looking after them immediately. There are other things that you can look for to see if a pressure sore is beginning to develop and some of these are: blisters, swelling, shiny skin patches, skin that is too cold, dry or warm and hard or cracked skin.
Prevention is the key here, as you want to avoid pressure sores in every way possible as they usually take an incredibly long time to heal given the poor health of those who generally get them. If there is a pressure sore then fortunately there are numerous treatments that can be tried. Firstly treatments that may prevent pressure sores include foam mattresses that provide extra support in addition to a normal hospital mattress. The idea of these is to distribute the weight more evenly and make it less likely that one area of skin will be resting on a particular spot. There is good research that supports the use of foam mattresses and they are available at most nursing homes, hospitals and you can even purchase on for use in the home environment. An inflatable bed is another good option for those who are unable to move themselves. This may stop certain points of their body from contact with hard parts of a bed. A medical sheepskin mat can be laid out over the top of a mattress to prevent pressure sores. In long operations a special mat called an overlay can be placed down so that you do not develop pressure sores during these operations.
What can I do for myself?
There is no better way to prevent a pressure sore than to change position regularly. Many people who suffer from pressure sores are unable to do this for themselves. If this is the case then you must ask a health professional to do this for you. Your skin must be protected whilst you are being moved so that friction does not create skin damage. You should inspect your skin for any warning signs and help yourself by drinking lots of fluids, stopping smoking and eating well. These things are important, as they are all necessary to make your circulation work well.
There is only one type of bed that has been effective in the treatment of pressure sores and this is known as an air-fluidised bed and these work once again by helping to distribute your weight evenly. You must keep the pressure sore free from any dead tissue so that it can heal properly and a gentle rinse with soap water will usually do an effective job in this regard. Debridement is another method to remove dead tissue and this will be done by your health care professional whereby they will use a blade or sharp knife and then dress it with special dressings. Dressings are important in the treatment of your pressure sore and help to keep it clean and moist while it heals.
Picking up on the warning signs and discovering pressure sores while they are in there early stages is the best method of preventing them from getting worse. Most of the sores will heal eventually, however some larger ones may not heal for a very long time and you may be in hospital for months. They usually affect the skin only; however can sometimes damage deeper tissues such as muscles and bones. If you are careful and follow all of the preventative measures then you can avoid all of the complications that may arise from these pressure sores.