Unless you’ve ever had a pressure sore, you can’t really begin to imagine the discomfort that comes along with one. They’re also a lot more common than you might think. According to the NHS, just under half a million individuals will fall victim each and every year.
Whilst it’s true that in most cases ulcers are associated with pre-existing health issues, the risk of developing pressure sores is still a present danger for people who lay or sit for increased periods of times. The most common examples, of course, being wheelchair users and bedridden individuals.
So what should you do if you do find yourself being affected? Just as importantly, what shouldn’t you do?
The Healing Process
Pressure ulcers are essentially a result of restricted blood flow. Without the required blood containing oxygen and other essential nutrients, tissue can begin to weaken and eventually break. The result is an open wound sore offering the perfect environment for foreign bodies and microbes.
A group of microorganisms known as a biofilm may impair the healing process. The cells within a biofilm stick to one another and the outcome is often the sore staying inflamed and being unable to heal, increasing the risk of infection.
Of course, infection is most definitely not wanted. A range of side effects is related to infected wounds including swelling, discomfort, pus-filled discharge, discolouration and gangrenous smells. This all adds up to unhygienic living conditions and a much-increased recovery time.
To combat the potential problems that can arise, Antimicrobial dressings should be applied keep biofilm from getting out of control. It is also imperative to treat sores with an antiseptics (including creams) immediately.
Under no circumstances, however, hydrogen peroxide and iodine-based products should never be used on pressure sores. They can be cytotoxic, damage the skin, make inflammation worse and prevent speedy recovery.
Relieving pressure on the affected sore and area is vital. This may seem difficult if you’re using a wheelchair or are confined to bedrest. Pressure relief pillows, specialised cushions and mattress pads can help to soften the impact of continual tension on the skin.
Although cushions are beneficial, donut and ring-shaped cushions as they can restrict blood flow and deter skin improvement.
On top of this, constantly changing position help to alleviate pressure at one site. Wheelchairs users should aim to be readjusting every 15 minutes. Bedridden sore sufferers should be shifted at around two-hour intervals.
Remember that skin on and around the sore should never be massaged or rubbed as this adds to the pressure faced by the skin.
As well as actively attending to the sore, ensuring that outside issues don’t come into play can play a pivotal role in the pressure sore recovery process and ensure no further injury and damage occurs.
There a few things you can do to make sure you’re giving your skin every chance of effectively healing including lightly sprinkling bedsheets with powder, wearing clothes that do not rub on the sore and making sure you cannot slip or slide during sleep.
On top of this, a healthy lifestyle can also promote quicker skin repair. The most obvious of course is keeping in line with a balanced diet. Proteins, vitamins and minerals are all encouraging of healthy skin and aid in repairing damage. High protein foods include meat, fish, yoghurt, eggs, cheese, nuts and seeds.
Smoking reduces oxygen levels in the blood making it much harder for the heart to pump it around the body. Oxygen is a necessary component of the recovery process and a reduced amount means it is much harder and takes much longer to repair. Smoking also results in a weakened immune system, again contributing to an extended healing time.
If you can do so (it may be best to ask a medical professional), exercises and stretches can improve circulation and promote healthier skin. It will also help deal with excess weight, which in itself is another factor to look out for.
Seeking Professional, Medical Health
If your sore worsens, you should seek medical advice from a qualified professional. You should make contact without delay if signs of infection, such as odour, pus, tenderness or swelling are present. These signs may also be accompanied by a fever.
If blisters begin to show or a sore opens, make sure you see a doctor immediately.