Pressure Ulcer Prevention Day
Preventing ulcers and other best practice advice | NHG
With more than 180,000 pressure ulcers developing annually, pressure ulcer treatment in the UK currently reportedly costs the NHS almost £4million every year.
It’s common knowledge that avoidable pressure ulcers are a key indicator of the quality and experience of patient care however, they remain a major problem for the healthcare sector.
And, given the fact that they’re more prevalent amongst older people combined with the fact we’re all living longer lives, it’s an on-going problem that’s highly unlikely to ease off anytime soon.
But what are pressure ulcers and how can they be prevented? With today (November 16) being Pressure Ulcer Prevention Day, we’ve answered these key questions and more. Keep reading for the full details.
What are pressure ulcers?
Pressure ulcers, also known as pressure sores or bedsores, are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue that are mainly caused by prolonged pressure being applied to the skin.
Anybody can get them, but they usually tend to affect people who have been confined to their bed or who sit in a chair or wheelchair for long periods of time. They often develop gradually, but can sometimes form within just a few hours.
Who can get pressure ulcers?
Pressure ulcers can affect anybody if a part of their body is put under sustained pressure. They’re most common on bonier parts of the body, such as heels, elbows, hips and at the base of the spine.
Due to the fact older people, particularly those over the age of 65, tend to tick the boxes immediately above, pressure ulcers are extremely common within this age group.
What are the symptoms of pressure ulcers?
It’s possible to spot the symptoms of pressure ulcers, both at an early stage and when they’re more advanced. Here are some of the main symptoms to watch out for:
- 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
At this stage, pressure ulcers are often referred to as category one pressure ulcers.
The skin may not necessarily be broken at first, but if the pressure ulcer gets worse, it can form:
- An open wound or blister – also known as a category two pressure ulcer
- A deep wound that reaches the deeper layers of the skin – also referred to as a category three pressure ulcer
- A very deep wound that may reach the muscle and bone – also known as a category four pressure ulcer
You should seek medical advice immediately if there is - red, swollen skin; pus coming from the pressure ulcer or wound; cold skin and a fast heartbeat; severe or worsening pain or a high temperature (of 38℃ or above). If you have any of these symptoms, then it could be a sign of serious infection that needs to be treated as soon as possible.
What measures can people take to prevent pressure ulcers?
There are plenty of preventative actions people can take to help prevent pressure ulcers and the sooner they’re taken, the less likely the risk of them developing into something more serious or far more difficult to treat.
Ideally, dedicated care plans should be put in place for people who are within care settings and are at risk of developing pressure ulcers.
And these plans should contain proactive practical measures that will help pressure ulcers from developing, such as:
- Regularly changing the position of patients who spend long periods in bed.
- Making sure patients don’t sit in a chair for more than two hours at a time.
- If patients are incontinent, making sure their skin is cleaned and moisturised. Barrier creams can be applied if the skin is too wet or dry and inflamed.
But it’s not just these practical day-to-day techniques that should be taken into account. Assessing patients’ environments to make sure they’re fit for purpose is also key to helping keep pressure ulcers at bay. For instance, is the patient sitting on the appropriate pressure care cushion? In fact, is all of the furniture they use designed with comfort in mind and does it support the bonier parts of their bodies? And if they are lying or sitting in bed for long periods of time, are they lying on the right type of mattress?
There are certain mattresses, like our new Universal Therapy System mattress, that are specifically designed for the optimum prevention, care and treatment of pressure ulcers.
Most pressure ulcers are preventable, if you take the time to take the proactive measures listed above and remember that preventing them, involves day-to-day actions, as well as assessing your entire environment.
If you have any questions or would like to find out more about how our industry-leading care equipment and consumables can help you prevent and treat pressure ulcers, contact us today on 0845 835 0052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.