Keep Moving is the message on Stop Pressure Ulcer Day which takes place on Thursday, 19th November.
STOP Pressure Ulcer Day is a global annual event in which industry, healthcare professionals, the public and media come together to help raise awareness of pressure ulcers – something many people are touched by every year.
The aim of this event is to increase public knowledge in a bid to prevent pressure ulcers from forming and affecting so many people each year.
What is a pressure ulcer?
A pressure ulcer is an area of damage to the skin and underlying tissue. They are sometimes known as bed sores, pressure sores/injuries or decubitus ulcers.
What can cause a pressure ulcer?
It is usually caused by sitting or lying in one position for too long without moving (unrelieved pressure) or by rubbing or dragging your skin across a surface (shear/friction)
A pressure ulcer can develop in only a few hours. It will usually start with the skin becoming slightly redder, warmer or darker than usual. This can go on to become blister- like or an open wound. Over a longer time period this can become larger and deeper, and can cause serious harm in extreme cases.
At North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, our team of tissue viability nurses are here to help you. Their number one piece of advice is for people to Keep Moving. We want to get the message out about why this is happening and who is at risk.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can be at risk; however people at an increased risk of developing a pressure ulcer are those who:
- Have problems moving and are unable to change their own position
- Cannot feel pain over part or all of their body
- Have incontinence problems
- Are seriously ill or undergoing surgery
- Have had pressure ulcers in the past
- Have a poor diet or don’t drink enough
- Are very old or very young
- Suffer with anaemia
- Have poor circulation
People who are self isolating may not be moving around as much as they should and may not have sought advice from their GP Current restrictions may mean that they are spending more time at home and are sitting for long periods in the same position. People with existing medical conditions or those who are infirm may be at increased risk.
Pressure ulcers can be treated but people can also develop complications. If you’ve had a pressure ulcer before, then you may be more susceptible to them in the future. Once the damage is done it is harder to repair and they can become chronic lifelong wounds.
Changes can occur in a short period of time.
How can you protect yourself?
There are several ways you can reduce the risk of pressure ulcers:
Have a skin check up
Ask your relative or carer to regularly check your skin for signs of pressure ulcer damage. If you have concerns, please contact your GP surgery. If an area is red it should turn white when you press it then return to red. If the area stays red for more than 20 minutes then you should seek help
One of the best ways of preventing a pressure ulcer is to reduce or relieve pressure on areas that are vulnerable to pressure ulcers (bony parts of the body) by frequently changing position, at least every couple ofhours or as directed by your health care professional. This can be as simple as standing up for a few moments, or being assisted in a new lying position dependent upon your needs.
A good diet
Make sure you eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids. Extra protein may help if you have an existing pressure ulcer.
Protect your skin
Wash your skin using warm water or pH neutral skin cleansers. Do not use heavily perfumed soap or talcum powder, as these can soak up the skin’s natural oils leading to vulnerable dry areas. If you suffer from incontinence, please inform your health care team as they can assess the best way to deal with the problems.
Things to look out for
- Bluish/purplish patches on dark- skinned people
- Red patches on light-skinned people
- Discomfort or pain
- Patches of hot/cold skin
- Blisters or damage to skin
- Changes in sensation
What can you expect from your healthcare professional/nurse?
An assessment when you are first being seen will be used to identify your risk of developing a pressure ulcer (Waterlow score).
If we think you could be at risk, we may implement some or all of the following:
- Pressure-relieving bed mattresses and chair cushions.
- Regular reassessment of your skin and any changes in your health.
- Advise you on how often you need to move or be moved.
- Advice regarding any continence issues and skin care products
- Establish a repositioning routine with you.
- Offer advice/placement of correct sitting and lying positions for you.
- Assessment of your nutritional requirements.
- Discussions of your concerns/needs.
Pressure ulcers are largely preventable. The key messages are to keep your skin in good condition, keep well-nourished and hydrated and keep moving. Prevention certainly is better than cure!