Pressure sores are also known as pressure ulcers, or bedsores can happen when your skin press against a surface that is hard for prolonged periods of time. This can happen when someone spends too long sitting in a chair, wheelchair, or bed. The pressure of sitting on a hard surface for too long can slow the blood supply within that area causing the skin or soft tissue to become damaged or even die from an infection. When this occurs a pressure sore or ulcer can form. Let’s learn some basic skills on how to prevent pressure sores and know what to look for if you believe you may have one.
For those that fall into the following areas you could be at risk:
- Spend a significant time sitting in a chair
- Spend a significant time in a wheelchair or other mobility device
- Spend a lot of time in a bed without moving much
- Are underweight or overweight
- Where are pressures sores most likely to form?
- Pressure Sore Stages
- How to diagnose signs of early pressure sores or ulcers
- Preventing pressure sores by self-care
- Preventing pressure sores while in a wheelchair
- Preventing pressure soars from a bed
Where are pressures sores most likely to form?
Pressure form are most likely to form in the following areas. Depending on if you or a loved one sit on a chair or in a bed may determine where the pressure form can form.
- Back of head
Pressure Sore Stages
Did you know that there are different stages of pressure sore development? They are graded out on a scale of 1 to 4. Stage 1 is the less severe while stage 4 is the worst type of ulcer. Below are the stages and what they mean.
Stage 1 Pressure Sores
Stage 1 of a pressure sore is when you first start to feel something at the specific area. This is where the skin may feel paintful or even itchy. You may also notice that the skin can have a differnt feel. It can be softer or firmer than the skin around the area.
Look for red spots on lighter skin color. For darker skin colors you may see blue or purple spots form.
Stage 2 Pressure Sores
When you get into stage 2 of a pressure sore it is when there is top tissue damage. or underlying tissue damage the dermis layer. This is when a small or wound that can be open might start to form. It may also look like a blister. This is when medical assistance should be sought because there are chances if it’s not dealt with properly it can form into a higher risk pressure sore.
Stage 3 pressure sores will now have a deeper wound that forms. This wound causes damage to the top tissue and underlying tissue and now it reaches the subcutaneous fat. This wound can now expose layers of skin and muscle.
State 4 is the highest stage and the most dangerous form of pressure sores. These are large wounds that now have caused damage to the skin, tendons, muscle, and can even extend down to the bone. It is not out of the possibility to have skin tissue that will begin to die with the chance of infection. Seeking medical help is extremely important.
How to diagnose signs of early pressure sores or ulcers
Knowing what to look for and diagnosing the early signs of pressure sores or ulcers will help in fixing the issue before the sores get worst. Either you or if you have a caregiver should look for the following signs.
- Warm areas
- Skin redness
- The top layer of skin tears or sore
- Hard skin
- Spongy skin
Preventing pressure sores by self-care
It is important to understand how and why pressure sores form. Once you do you can help to prevent pressure sores from forming by trying the following methods.
- Use moisturizing creams daily
- When bathing only use a soft sponge. Do not scrub hard
- Be sure to clean areas and dry properly in areas that could stay moist
- Do not shower or bathe daily as this can be counterintuitive and dry out your skin
- Stay clear of strong soaps
- Stay clear of talc powders
What you wear matters. Keep the following in mind when dressing.
- Do not wear clothes that are really tight
- Try and not to wear clothes that have buttons or seams that are thick. This can rub against the skin or cause unnecessary pressure points
Preventing pressure sores while in a wheelchair
Extensive wheelchair use over long periods of time can cause pressure sores. There are some simple things that you should do in order to minimize the effects of developing pressure issues while in a wheelchair.
- Be sure that the wheelchair fits you as properly as it can. A chair too small can cause pressure issues easily.
- Try and maintain your weight. If you gain weight your wheelchair that once fits properly may be too small.
Use The Proper Wheelchair Cushions
Another way to make sitting in a wheelchair more comfortable and to help prevent pressure sores is to use the right kind of wheelchair cushion. Using foam or gel seat cushions that properly fit your wheelchair can make a world of difference for those that have to sit for prolonged periods of time.
Understanding Wheelchair Transfers Can Help Prevent Sores
During wheelchair transfers, you may find yourself dragging yourself across the board. Try not to do this as it can damage and irritate your skin causing sores to form over time. Using your arms to lift yourself is the proper way to use a transfer board.
Overview of wheelchair best practice to keep pressure sores at bay
- Use the proper type of wheelchair cushions
- Change positions every hour or so
- Do not drag yourself when transferring out of the chair
- Check your skin for pressure sores that could be developing
- Do not use pillows under your knees. This can cause heel pressure sores
- Keep pockets empty of phones, keys, or other objects that could cause pressure build-up when sitting
Preventing pressure soars from a bed
Pressure sores and ulcers happen very frequently from beds. This happens when you do not move from the same position over a long period of time.
How do you help to prevent pressures sores from a bed? Follow these guide lines to help reduce pressure ulcers from happening.
- Use a mattress that is made from foam or that is filled with gel or even air
- Place a soft pillow between body parts so they can help with skin irritation
- If you need to lay on your side it is best to use a pillow that sits between your ankles or knees to help reduce irritation
- If you lay on your back place a pillow under your heels
- Under your calves so it helps to lift your heels
- Under shoulders
- Under elbows
- Under tailbone