Pressure sores, also known as bedsores, pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, commonly develop when constant pressure or friction on one area of the body leads to damaging of the skin. Pressure sores often affect those with underlying health conditions, and are particularly common among those confined to lying in a bed or sitting still for prolonged periods of time.
Pressure sores usually develop on areas that are not covered by much body fat and are in direct contact with a surface, such as a bed or a wheelchair. These areas include: knees, ankles, heels, toes, spine, shoulders, elbows, back of the head or the rims of the ears. People over 70 years old are often particularly vulnerable to pressure sores due to mobility problems and ageing skin, but according to the NHS it is a wide-spread health problem, affecting around one in 20 people who are admitted to a hospital. For some people, these wounds are a mere inconvenience that might require minor nursing care. For others, they can lead to life-threatening complications, such as blood poisoning, infections or gangrene. It is therefore much better to prevent pressure sores than to treat them once they have happened.
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Change of position
Relieving pressure is obviously the best way of preventing pressure sores. According to the NHS, one should change position at least every two hours. This is especially important for people confined to a bed. Wheelchair users will need to change their position at least once every 15 to 30 minutes.
Some equipment, such as special beds, mattresses and cushions, can help prevent pressure ulcers. A Cochrane review in 2011 found that people who lay on special mattresses were less likely to develop pressure sores when compared to ordinary mattresses. Cushions that can mould around your body are also available to make it more comfortable to sit for a long time in a chair, or support certain exposed areas to pressure sores. Dan Medica South specialise in portable pressure care products that provide comfort and relief. For more information, visit danmedicasouth.co.uk or telephone them direct on 0208 133 2851.
Check your skin
If you are predisposed to pressure sores, it’s important that you check your skin on a daily basis for any signs, such as discoloured areas of skin. Make sure you check the parts of your body that you rarely see, such as the back of your shoulders and the heels of your feet.
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Smoking reduces the levels of oxygen in your blood and weakens your immune system, which increases your risk of developing pressure ulcers. Smokers also tend to develop more severe wounds, and they often heal more slowly.
Identifying a pressure sore
At first glance, a pressure sore may look like a bruise as the damaged skin darkens or goes red—often turning purple in fair skinned people. The damaged area will feel sore when touched, and is often warmer than the surrounding areas. If left untreated, the skin gradually wears away and can break open. Tell your GP if you notice any of these skin changes.
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