Pressure ulcers, or commonly known as bedsores, is a condition that affects millions of people globally every year. It is caused by reduced blood flow to the skin, marked by discoloration or open wounds.
People that spend long hours without movement, like, patients lying in a certain position for extended periods are the most prone to pressure ulcers. If left unattended, pressure ulcers can develop into deep, non-healing wounds that cause pain and discomfort to the patient.
How do pressure ulcers form?
Lying down or sitting on a hard surface for prolonged periods of time leads to the cells near the compressed surface to become squashed and in turn cause a poor supply of blood and oxygen to that area.
Bedsores are most likely to form on bony areas that are constantly compressed onto hard surfaces like chairs and beds. Hips, ankles, knees, heels, buttocks, or any other part that has a medical device attached for a long time.
Pressure ulcers can take up to a few hours to a few days to develop. There are different stages the sore can develop into, depending on the condition of the patient.
Stage 1 –
This is mild bedsore wherein only the upper surface of the skin is affected. You can detect this by discoloration of the skin surface (red or blackish-blue) that does not heal even after pressing or with time (10 to 30 minutes).
Stage 2 –
At this stage, the skin breaks and there is an open wound or a pus-filled blister on the surface of the skin. The area is painful to touch, swollen, and warm.
Stage 3 –
This wound runs deep into the fat tissues. The exudating wound is painful and is prone to infection.
Stage 4 –
This is a serious stage of pressure ulcer formation that runs deep to the muscles and bones. This kind of wound can lead to severe health complications.
How can pressure ulcers be prevented?
Bedsores can lead to pain, complications with co-ailments, and a lowering of the general quality of life. The following list contains simple activities that can go a long way towards pressure ulcer prevention.
- Change positions in bed or chair every two hours
Frequent change of sleeping or sitting positions helps to maintain even supply of blood to the compressed surfaces. This also prevents damage to cells and underlying tissue, aiding blood supply to different parts of the body.
- Maintain head of the bed at 30 degrees or less unless contraindicated
Sleeping at an elevated angle of 30 degrees reduces the contact pressure on the skin with the hard surface. Unless medically advised otherwise, this can go a long way in helping in pressure ulcer prevention.
- Assess need for support surface
In case you are medically advised to lie in bed for long periods of time, a hard mattress can cause bedsores. Foam mattresses or ones filled with gel or liquid provide a soft, comfortable surface with minimal pressure on the skin and promote active blood circulation in the body.
Soft foam pillows can be used to support the head, neck, and limbs when you change positions in bed.
Chairs can be equipped with foam or gel cushions for pressure ulcer prevention and management.
- Keep the skin clean and dry
Keep the parts of the body under constant compression dry and clean. Since these areas are mostly warm, the presence of moisture can create a breeding ground for infectious microbes. The sheets on the mattress as well as your clothes should be regularly changed and cleaned.
In case you cannot shift your position every two hours, use doctor-recommended talcum powder or any other product that keeps the contact surface dry.
- Maintain proper nutrition
A balanced meal filled with essential nutrients is important for maintaining skin health as well as a functional immune system. Wound healing diets contain all kinds of substances that help in pressure ulcer prevention or healing chronic wounds. Consuming food rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants keep the body vitals in check and fight against infection in bedsores.
- Use a pull or draw sheet while repositioning patients
If you cannot move without assistance, then it is advisable to use a draw sheet while changing the bed coverings. This is a special kind of sheet that prevents the damage and breakdown of skin caused by dragging.
The skin that is under constant pressure is fragile and prone to rashes and bedsores. Draw sheets help protect such delicate surfaces from damage due to friction.
If you are
- above the age of 60
- or, are obese and cannot move without assistance
- or, are required to sit or lie in the same position for long hours
then it is advisable to consult with your doctor regarding ways of pressure ulcer prevention and management that are specific to your case. In case you have the ability to take care of yourself without much assistance, then, an active lifestyle, good food, and hygiene practices can help you live in a healthy way while minimizing the chances of the occurrence of bedsores.