What is a Pressure Sore?
The Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) estimates that more than 2.5 million people develop pressure sores annually. Pressure sores, also known as bed sores, pressure ulcers, or decubitus ulcers are an injury to the skin and underlying tissue. They are caused by unrelieved pressure built up on an area of the skin for a long period of time. They can range from mild reddening of the skin to severe tissue damage and sometimes infection that extends into muscle and bone. Pressure sores are often a sign of neglectful care at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospitals. Due to the built up pressure, blood flow to the affected area will become restricted and the tissue may begin to die, usually starting with the skin. Pressure sores are most likely to develop in areas of the body with little to no muscle or fat for padding. These areas of the body are generally bonier and are more susceptible to the development of pressure sores. The most common places for pressure sores are the head, heels, back, and buttocks.
How do Pressure Sores Occur?Simply put, pressure sores occur when a person lays or sits in one position for a very long period of time. The pressure of the body causes all of the blood to leave the area. The lack of blood flow causes tissue to die. The amount of time this takes will vary depending on the health of the person and the condition of their skin. There are several common ways pressure sores can occur. For example, after surgery or an injury a person may be bed-bound for a period of time. Another example involves elderly people that are bed-bound or wheelchair-bound. Both of these examples commonly occur in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Additional factors that put nursing home and assisted living facility residents at risk for developing bedsores include being elderly, needing assistance to move, malnourishment, incontinence, chronic health problems, fragile skin, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
What Are the Stages of a Pressure Sore?Pressure sores develop in four stages, one being the least severe and four being the most severe. Each stage has different signs and different levels of treatment:Stage One: There are no open wounds or tearing. Instead, the skin will appear red and maybe painful. In fact, it may look very similar to a rash. When you press on it the redness does not disappear. Skin temperature may be increased and the skin my feel softer or firmer than the skin around it.
- How to get rid of it: Take all pressure off the site of the wound. Keep the wound dry and clean. Make sure the diet is high in protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and iron. Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. Pressure sores at this stage can be reversed in about three days if these steps are followed.
- How to get rid of it: follow the same steps as a stage one pressure sore. The sore should go away within three weeks.
- How to get rid of it: Make sure all pressure is off the wound if this has not been done already. Go see a health care provider immediately. Pressure sores at this stage need special care from a medical professional. Healing time may be between one and four months.
- How to get rid of it: Contact a health care provider immediately. Surgery is often required to treat such a severe pressure sore. Healing time can be from three months up to two years.