Pressure sores, also known as bedsores, are one of the most common complications that can arise from being hospitalised.
They’re extremely prevalent in European hospitals, with up to 23% of hospitals dealing with them frequently, but they are also a problem common to those who are bed-bound at home or paralysed, with up to 29% incidence rates for those in home care. In this post, our healthcare team explains how to identify and prevent pressure sores.
The four stages of pressure sores
There are four different stages of pressure sores, and they are categorised in terms of seriousness. It’s essential to know how to identify each stage, as the treatments differ depending on the category, and you’ll need to be able to see if your methods are working. Typically, pressure sores are only dangerous if left untreated, so making an early diagnosis will save a lot of pain and hassle.
- Stage 1 – The mildest stage, this is characterised by a red mark around the affected area. Usually, the red section of skin is warmer than the surrounding area, does not blanch (whiten when you press a finger on it) and may feel firmer or softer than the area around it.
- Stage 2 – At this stage, the skin has broken open or worn away, usually forming a small but painful ulcer. It tends to extend into the skin, looking like a small crater or blister.
- Stage 3 – This stage is serious, as the sore extends into the tissue below the skin. You may see subcutaneous fat in the wound, visible as a white mass at the bottom of the sore. There may be less pain, due to extensive nerve damage.
- Stage 4 – The most severe stage, this is when the wound is deep enough to expose muscle, bone, or tendon. Again, there may be no pain due to nerve damage. A pressure ulcer that exposes cartilage, such as one found on the bridge of the nose, can also be classified as stage 4.
There are two additional stages of pressure sores that don’t fit with the four stages described above:
- Unstageable – when you can’t recognise how deep the sore is.
- Suspected deep tissue injury (SDTI) – when it looks like a stage 1 or 2 sore but underneath it’s a stage 3 sore. The area may be dark purple or maroon.
Treatment for pressure sores depends on the stage, but the primary danger comes from infection, so simply cleaning and dressing the wound is most effective. We also suggest making sure the person receives the proper nutrition, as this will speed up the body’s healing process. Antibiotics may also be used if necessary, especially in stage 4 ulcers where there is a risk of bone infection.
Pressure sores prevention methods
Numerous risk factors contribute to pressure sores forming, from age to smoking history. However, all of the methods for preventing bedsores are easy to implement.
The number one cause is consistent and continuous pressure on a certain area of skin, usually sited over a bone or bony structure. The solution is to occasionally redistribute pressure by moving the patient, either turning them over every few hours or encouraging them to get up and walk around if they can. If a sore is already forming, then keeping pressure off the affected area will prevent it from worsening.
Moisture is another common cause of pressure sores. Long-term exposure to liquids like sweat can break down the skin, making it far more likely for pressure sores to form on the affected area. Keeping the patient clean is vital, as sweat will often contribute to this, and making sure that the sheets are clean and dry can help to keep their skin in good condition.
Making a few changes to your diet can help to prevent bedsores. Research has shown that people who take in a lot of vitamin C are less likely to suffer from pressure sores and having a healthy and balanced diet can help to keep the skin in good condition. For those struggling to devise a balanced diet, consider talking to a nutritionist about specific dietary requirements, then hire one of our live-in carers to help with meal preparation and to monitor your loved one’s diet closely.
Talk to Better Healthcare
Pressure sores are so easily preventable that nobody should have to deal with them. Our carers are trained to prevent and recognise the signs of pressure sores and manage them accordingly. When your loved one is in our care, it’s one less worry you have to think about.
To find out more about how we can help, get in touch on 0800 668 1234, or contact your local office: