Understanding Pressure Sores and How to Treat Them

Pressures sores, also known as bedsores or pressure ulcers, are skin injuries that result from prolonged pressure placed on a particular point of the skin. However, even though many of us are familiar with the idea of pressure sores, we may not have had experience with the injury, either directly or based on the experience of a loved one. But it important to understand that the presence of a pressure sore is serious, as it can lead to a significant amount of pain and discomfort, and may result in a serious infection.

To help you understand the nature of pressure sores, as well as methods for their treatment and prevention, here is an overview of the condition.

Common Causes of Pressure Sores

A pressure sore occurs when prolonged pressure on the skin causes damage to the tissue. Typically, these are more common in individuals that have limited mobility, resulting in their reliance on others to shift positions. Additionally, excess moisture from sweat, urine, or fecal matter can increase the chance of a bedsore developing.

Certain conditions also increase the risk of developing a pressure ulcer. This includes a diet that is low in protein, which can cause slow healing and unhealthy skin, as well as smoking, which reduces blood flow and leads to drier skin. Further, the elderly are at greater risk due to having thinner skin and those with conditions that affect healing, such as diabetes, are also more likely to develop pressure sores.

Treatment of Pressure Sores

If a pressure sore develops, the treatment required varies depending on the severity of the injury. However, all bedsore treatment plans require the pressure be alleviated while the sore heals. This means keeping the person in a position that relieves the pressure or spreading out body weight more evenly to facilitate healing, such as with the use of an alternating pressure mattress.

The pressure ulcer will need to be cleaned regularly and properly bandaged to help prevent or reduce infection in the area. Additionally, it is vital to maintain a healthy diet to help encourage the body’s natural healing processes.

In cases where an infection is present, it may be necessary to take antibiotics. Additionally, any damaged or dead tissue may need to be removed to help the wound heal more quickly. If the case is severe, surgery may be required to treat or close the wound. This could include the use of skin grafts should there not be enough healthy tissue available to close the sore.

Pressure Sore Prevention

The best way to prevent pressure sores is by changing position on a regular basis. For individuals with enough mobility, they can simply shift themselves, being careful not to fold or twist the skin. When spending the majority of one’s time in bed, it is wise to shift at least once every two hours. However, if prolonged periods of time are spent in a seated position on a chair (including wheelchairs), the weight should be shifted every 15 minutes.

In cases where the person cannot move themselves, assistance will be required to meet their needs. This can include having an appropriate person help them shift on a regular basis, as well as the use of automatic mechanisms like automated alternating pressure mattresses. These mattresses use an air pump to shift the tension in specific portions of the mattress on a regular basis. This process prevents one area from spending extended amounts of time under pressure.

Even when automated devices are in use, it is still important to inspect the skin regularly to spot early signs of pressure sores. That way, should damage start, it can be managed as quickly as possible.

Other Important Skin Care Steps

The risk of pressure sores can be decreased through proper skin care. This includes making sure skin is kept clean, including free of sweat, urine, and feces. Using an appropriate moisturizing cream can also help as this limits the chance of skin cracking due to becoming overly dry. Additionally, moisturized skin is typically more flexible, making it less prone to tears.

Healthy Diet Choices for Pressure Sore Prevention

Eating a diet with a sufficient amount of protein is critical in the prevention of pressure sores. Additionally, maintaining a healthy level of hydration is also key to maintaining healthy skin, which lowers risk as well.

People who are at a healthy weight are also less inclined to develop sores than those who are either underweight or overweight. Additionally, being a nonsmoker also helps keep skin healthier, lowering the risk further.

What to Do if a Pressure Sore Develops

If you or a loved one develops a pressure sore, it is best to seek medical attention from a trained healthcare professional. This ensures the wound is thoroughly examined and a proper treatment plan is put in place. Additionally, a physician may have advice regarding pressure-relieving pads or cushions that can help with the specific injury involved.

In cases where a person under the care of a long-term healthcare facility ends up with a pressure sore, it is important to take immediate action. While many care facilities are well-trained in regards to the prevention of bedsores, a facility that allows the issue to occur multiple times may be ill-equipped to manage a person’s care and may, in fact, be considered criminally negligent. There are methods for filing grievances should negligence be suspected, including contacting appropriate government officials.

In most cases, the prevention of pressure sores is fairly simple, so a skilled facility should have little trouble managing the issue. If you are responsible for your own care, or the care of a loved one, speak with your physician regarding the proper way to prevent bedsores from occurring. They can provide information regarding how to properly move or shift your or your loved one’s position without risking any harm during the process, as well as provide guidance regarding the signs of a pressure sore developing. That way you are well-prepared to manage your or their care in the best manner possible.

About the Author Nurse Susan, RN

I have always been passionate about helping people heal. After I retired from my lifelong career as a nurse, that passion didn’t go away. That’s why I started this site. I encountered all sorts of medical products during my years as a nurse, and now I want to use that knowledge to help you make the best choices for your health. I know how the right product can change someone’s life for the better, so I’m here to help you find the best medical products to keep you and your family healthy, active, and happy.