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What are Pressure Sores and How to Prevent them

Monday, 25 October 2010  |  Paul

Pressure sores are a very common problem affecting thousands of people and can be extremely painful. Pressure sores, also known as pressure ulcers or bed sores are areas of damaged skin and tissue that develop when prolonged periods of uninterrupted pressure cuts of the circulation to vulnerable parts of the body. Without adequate blood flow the affected tissue dies.

Pressure sores can occur in anyone who lies in one position for a long time. A pressure ulcer usually forms over bony prominces on the body and are graded into categories to classify degrees of tissue damage. Any lesion caused by unrelieved pressure resulting in damage to underlying skin is a pressure sore.

Symptoms of Pressure Sores

There are four stages in the development of a pressure sore and the first stage usually appears as reddening of the skin that does not disappear after a few hours. This redness in the skin may become painful and purple in colour.

The second stage of the development of a bed sore is when the outer layer of the skin known as the Epidermis is broken. At this stage the sore can become infected and appropriate care must be put in place to prevent the sore from worsening. A pressure sore at this stage should be monitored and cared for as it can quickly develop into stage three where the damage of the pressure ulcer extends into the layer of tissue which lies below the skins surface.

Pressure sores that are at the fourth stage can increase in depth and size and cause destruction to the tissue and muscle layers beneath the skin so that the bones become exposed. In some cases the most large and severe pressure sores are painless due to the fact that the nerves have been destroyed.

Some areas of the body are more susceptible than others to bedsores. The areas of the body that are at high risk of pressure sores are:

·         Head

·         Sacrum

·         Hips

·         Elbows

·         Heels

·         Buttocks

The areas of the body that are at increased risk of pressure sores are:

·         Knees

·         Ankles

·         Ears

·         Spine

·         Shoulders

Contributing factors to Pressure Sores

People who are most vulnerable to the onset of pressure sores include those living with paralysis or using a wheelchair and any person with impaired mobility sensation.

There are several contributing factors to the cause of pressure sores. The pressure placed on a certain part of the body along with any friction that occurs will contribute to a pressure sore being formed. The health of a person will also contribute to the occurrence of pressure ulcers, factors such as incontinence, nutrition, immobility, age, diet and medication

Wheelchair users are also at risk of developing pressure sores. It has been suggested that over half of all wheelchair-dependant individuals will develop a pressure ulcer.

Prevention of Pressure Sores

Pressure sores can develop quickly, progress rapidly and are often difficult to heal. Yet health experts say many of these wounds do not have to occur. Key preventative measures can maintain the skin’s integrity and encourage healing. 

It is important when preventing pressure sores to encourage a person to change their position regularly throughout the day. People who are unable to do this themselves should be moved at appropriate intervals (at least every two hours).

Special mattresses and cushions made out of material such as gel and memory foam and also air-filled cushions help to redistribute weight and reduce pressure on sensitive areas. Protective padding of bony prominences should be also used.

Pressure relief cushions tend to be categorised for guidance into Low, Medium and High Risk. Pressure cushions that are for people at a medium to high risk of developing pressure sores are usually made from memory foam, gel or they are filled with air that alternates in pressure. The Relax Gelcell Cushion combines air and gel technology to provide pressure relief and comfort. When pressure is applied to the cushion, air circulates to each of the cells distributing the weight evenly. The Gelcell cushion is ideal for high risk users and wheelchair users.

Memory foam is used in many medium to high risk pressure relief cushions in cushions such as the Harley Designer Memory Foam Ring Cushion and the Harley Bari Care Designer Pressure Relief Cushion. Memory Foam is used to relief pressure and prevent pressure sores removes heat and weight from the user as the cushions moulds and shapes to the body’s requirements. There are also pressure cushions such as the Gel Bath Cushion for people at risk or pressure sores to bathe in comfort.