What is a pressure ulcer?
A pressure ulcer is a localised injury to the skin and/or underlying tissue usually over a bony prominence, as a result of pressure, or pressure in combination with shear. (1) They most often develop on skin and tissue that covers boney areas of the body including the tailbone, hips, ankles, heels, shoulder blades, spine and back/ side of the head.
Pressure ulcers are also known as a pressure sores, decubitus ulcers and bedsores.
Pressure ulcers can range in severity from patches of discoloured skin to open wounds that expose the underlying bone or muscle and they can be painful, debilitating and life threatening. (See stages of a pressure ulcer)
How prevalent are pressure ulcers?
Pressure care is becoming an area of growing importance in the medical sector as pressure ulcers are a widespread health problem, often underestimated in the past, and if they are not managed properly, they can lead to infection, septicemia, and can cost lives as a result.
Around 1 in 20 people who are admitted to hospital in Ireland with an acute (sudden) illness will develop a pressure ulcer. (2) They affect approximately 4 million people across Europe – that’s almost 84% of the population of Ireland (1).
According to figures from the European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (EPUAP), the cost of treating a pressure ulcer can be as much as €70,000 per year. (You can check out the video from the EPUAP below)
How do you get a pressure ulcer?
As the definition indicates, pressure ulcers form when pressure is applied to an area of the body over a long period of time. They can also form as a result of a large amount of pressure in a short period of time.
This pressure restricts the blood flow through the skin and tissue, starving the body’s cells of oxygen and causing them die and causing the skin and tissue around the area to break down.
Who can get a pressure ulcer?
Most people do not get pressure ulcers because they are continuously moving and adjusting themselves so that no part of their body is under this kind of continuous pressure. It’s uncomfortable.
Pressure ulcers are more of a risk for people with health or mobility conditions. For instance, wheelchair users (see how to prevent pressure sores in a wheelchair) are sitting for most of the day and their buttocks are under constant pressure. Similarly, bed-bound patients can be lying stationary for most of the day and night and multiple parts of their bodies are under sustained pressure.
Elderly people are at a higher risk of developing a pressure ulcer as 2 out of every 3 cases of pressure ulcers develop in people who are 70 or older (2). People with sensitive skin issues are also at a higher risk of developing a pressure sore.
This article is part 1 of a 5-part series on pressure care and pressure ulcers to help raise awareness of pressure ulcers as part of STOP Pressure Ulcers 2019.
Preventing and Treating Pressure Ulcers with the Star Lock Cushion
The Star Lock Cushion is one of the best pressure care cushions available for preventing and treating pressure ulcers of wheelchair users. It is clinically proven for the treatment Stage IV pressure ulcers.