A pressure sore is damage to the skin and underlying tissues, which is caused by there being prolonged pressure on one area of the body. Pressure sores usually occur when a person is immobile and has been left in the same position for a long period of time (i.e. if the person is bedbound). The weight of your body on one area for a long time, cuts off the blood supply to the area and then leads to damage.
Pressure sores commonly occur on the heels, sacrum (bottom) and back, as these are the areas that are frequently in contact with the surfaces of beds or wheelchairs.
Pressure sores are staged depending upon how deep they are:
Stage 1 – The skin has become discoloured and feels different from the surrounding skin (warm, spongy or hard). The area will not turn white when it is pressed, indicating that blood is not getting to it, and it can be painful and itchy.
Stage 2 – The skin has broken down and is an open wound or a blister.
Stage 3 – A deep wound has developed that reaches deeper layers of the skin.
Stage 4 – A very deep wound has developed reaching down to the muscle and bone.
Generally, pressure sores are preventable by ensuring that you change position regularly (or a carer changes your position regularly), you use appropriate pressure relieving equipment (such as appropriate mattresses or cushions), you are well nourished and maintain good hygiene.
Occasionally, pressure sores are unavoidable as a result of underlying medical conditions and general health, but in these situations pressure areas should be checked regularly to ensure that any damage is identified as early as possible.
The main treatment for pressure sores is to ensure that the area remains free from any pressure, so ensuring there are regular position changes, appropriate pressure relieving equipment and appropriate dressings are the key actions required.
With appropriate treatment, a stage one pressure sore can go away in a couple of days. Stage three or four sores can take a much longer time to heal (months or even years) and may require surgical treatment to clean the sore, remove dead tissue (debridement) and close the wound.
If pressure sores are not identified and treated, then they can lead to serious complications, including infections and blood poisoning.
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