Pressure ulcers (also known as pressure sores or bedsores) are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue, primarily caused by prolonged pressure on the skin.
They can happen to anyone, but usually affect people confined to bed or who sit in a chair or wheelchair for long periods of time.
Pressure ulcers can affect any part of the body that’s put under pressure. They’re most common on bony parts of the body, such as the heels, elbows, hips and base of the spine.
They often develop gradually but can sometimes form in a few hours.
Early symptoms of a pressure ulcer include:
• part of the skin becoming discoloured – people with pale skin tend to get red patches, while people with dark skin tend to get purple or blue patches
• discoloured patches not turning white when pressed
• a patch of skin that feels warm, spongy or hard
• pain or itchiness in the affected area
The skin may not be broken at first, but if the pressure ulcer gets worse, it can form:
• an open wound or blister – a category two pressure ulcer
• a deep wound that reaches the deeper layers of the skin – a category three pressure ulcer
• a very deep wound that may reach the muscle and bone – a category four pressure ulcer
Preventing pressure ulcers
It can be difficult to completely prevent pressure ulcers, but there are some things you or your care team can do to reduce the risk.
• regularly changing your position – if you’re unable to change position yourself, a relative or carer will need to help you
• checking your skin every day for early signs and symptoms of pressure ulcers – this will be done by your care team if you’re in a hospital or care home
• having a healthy, balanced diet that contains enough protein and a good variety of vitamins and minerals – if you’re concerned about your diet or caring for someone whose diet may be poor, ask your GP or healthcare team for a referral to a dietitian
• Always seek advice if you are concerned that a pressure ulcer may be developing getting treatment quickly is of utmost importance.