Pressure sores, also known as pressure ulcers or bedsores are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue. They can happen to anyone, but they usually affect people who are confined to bed or who sit in a chair or wheel chair for long periods of time as the main cause is prolonged pressure on the skin.

The most common places for pressure sores to develop are over bony parts of the body, such as the heels, elbows, hips, buttocks and the base of the spine (sacrum).

You have a higher risk of getting a pressure sore if you:

  • Have problems moving or cannot change position by yourself;
  • Cannot feel pain over a part or all of your body;
  • Are obese;
  • Have a poor diet and do not drink enough water;
  • Are incontinent;
  • Are very old or very young;
  • Have damaged your spinal cord and can neither move nor feel your bottom and legs;
  • Are confined to bed;
  • Have a medical condition that affects: the blood supply, makes skin more fragile or causes movement problems (i.e. diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, kidney failure, heart failure, multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease).

What should you look for?

An early sign that a pressure sore might be forming is usually discoloured skin. People with light skin would usually see red patches of skin that do not go away and people with dark skin would usually see bluish/purplish patches that do not go away. The patches may get progressively worse and eventually lead to an open wound. You may see other signs such as:

  • Blisters or damage to the skin;
  • Patches of hot skin;
  • Swelling;
  • Patches of hard skin;
  • Patches of cool skin;
  • Pain or itchiness in the affected area.

If the pressure sore gets worse and progresses it will be graded on its severity.

Grade 2 – an open wound or blister.

Grade 3 – a deep wound that reaches the deeper layers of the skin.

Grade 4 – a very deep wound that may reach the muscle or bone.

How to prevent a pressure sore

Some things that can be done to reduce the risk or prevent pressure sores from developing include:

  • Move around as much as possible;
  • If you are confined to bed change position regularly (at least every two hours) – if you are unable to change position yourself, ensure a relative or carer is available to assist you;
  • Use pillows to lift your heels off the bed (your heel should hang over the end of the pillow to relieve the pressure),or to stop your ankles and knees touching (especially if you are lying on your side);
  • Check your skin every day for early signs and symptoms of pressure sores. If you are in a hospital or care home this should be done by your care team;
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet;
  • Drink plenty of water;
  • Stop smoking;
  • You may require a special mattress or seat cushion (speak to your healthcare provider);
  • If you suffer from incontinence it is essential to keep skin clean and dry;
  • If you think a pressure sore is developing seek medical advice.

If sores develop, immediate action must be taken to avoid further deterioration and promote healing. Treatment will include careful monitoring, regular dressing changes, and minimising pressure on the affected areas and, in some cases, surgery to remove damaged tissue. In extreme cases, infection and breakdown may result in amputation, infection or death.

It is very rare that pressure sores are unavoidable and if they occur when you or a loved one are being cared for by others, it is likely to be a result of failings in their care.

We specialise in these claims so if you or someone close to you has suffered from a pressure sore, call Ison Harrison now for free advice on 0113 284 5000.  We recognise that damages arising from a successful claim are often not the priority, but a claim can often affect a change in care so that pressure sores are avoided in the future and improve patient safety.

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