Pressure sores, pressure ulcers, or bedsores happen when you sit or lie in the same position for too long and the weight of your body cut off blood supply to that area. This happens a lot to wheelchair users who sit in the chair in the same position for prolonged periods. Depending on the stages of pressure ulcers will determine the severity and treatment of the ulcers.
Each year there are more than 2.5 million people in the U.S. that develop pressure ulcers. Depending on the stage of the pressure ulcer will determine how severe the sore is. There are four stages of a pressure ulcer. The stages are based on how deep the sores are. One being the mildest and four being the worst.
Finding a pressure ulcer early can mean a quicker healing time leading to less pain and frustration. Letting these sores go can cause longe treatment to heal and much more pain and discomfort.
What are the 4 stages of pressure ulcers?
Pressure ulcers come in 4 stages. One being the least dangerous to four being the worst. Below outlines the four stages, what to expect with each, and what can be done to help the ulcer heal.
Stage 1 pressure ulcers or sores are not open wounds. You will see skin that is red in color and when you press your finger on it and then remove your finger from the area it does not lose color. The skin can be painful around the area as well. The skin temperature is also warmer than the surrounding areas. When you touch the area it will either feel softer or firmer than the skin around the area.
At stage 2 pressure ulcers the skin now breaks open, forms an ulcer, or wears away. This now causes more pain than stage 1. At this point, the ulcer can look like a blister or scrape in the skin because it now is deeper in the skin layer. It is not uncommon to allow show a blister that can be filled with clear fluid.
This is when the sore or ulcer extends into the tissue beyond the skin. When this happens it will be for small carters. At this point, you can expect to see fat in the sore. It is more painful now than the first two stages. Even though the ulcer creates a deeper crater you still cannot see muscle, bone, or tendons.
Stage 4 pressure sores are the most severe. The sore is extremely deep and now has reached into the bone and muscle cause extreme damage. It is possible that you can even have damage to joints, tendons, and tissue that is deeper.
Pressure sores that do not fit into a stage
- There are times when a deep pressure injury cannot be confirmed. This can happen when there is not an open wound but tissue under the surface has still been damaged. This can be called a deep tissue injury or (DTI)
- Unstageable pressure injuries are not clear. They are covered by layers of tissue or pus not allowing the doctor to make the determination of the ulcer stage.
What can cause pressure sores to form?
Pressure sores can form and develop when a large amount of pressure is put on the area of the skin over a short period of time. The same outcome will hold true when light pressure is applied over longer periods of time.
When pressure is put on the spot the flow of blood that occurs through the skin gets disrupted. Without the proper blood flow, the skin loses its oxygen and starts to break down. When this happens it can lead to ulcer forming.
Prolonged sitting in wheelchairs is an example of how pressure sores can form. When a wheelchair user sits in the same spot without moving and adjusting their position can cause pressure to build in the skin causing a sore to develop.
Pressure ulcer treatment
When treating pressure ulcers you can expect the use of creams, gels, and dressings that are designed to help and speed up the healing process. In the most severe cases, surgery is also an option.
Pressure ulcers can be painful and challenging to get control over if not treated early on. Because of this, there are a few things you can do to minimize getting pressure ulcers.
- Always change position regularly. This is true for anyone that sits for prolonged periods in chairs, wheelchairs, or beds.
- Use the proper type of wheelchair cushions for pressure sores and mattresses.
Final thoughts on pressure ulcer stages
As you can see there are four stages of pressure sores with four being the most severe. With proper care and keeping an eye out for what to look for when a pressure sore develops you can help to minimize or even stop a pressure sore from forming in the first place.
Be sure to move your weight every 20 minutes while sitting, use a good quality cushion, and be sure to look for signs and catch any sores early in the process to easily fix the issue.