Pressure ulcers occur when the skin and underlying tissue is damaged because of prolonged pressure. Typically, this happens when a person remains in one position for a long time. Hospital patients, people with mobility problems, and people with impaired nutrition are particularly vulnerable to developing ulcers.
Pressure ulcers are graded between the mildest (grade 1) in which there are early symptoms of a pressure ulcer but the skin is unbroken, to the most severe (grade 4) in which there is a deep wound that may reach down to the muscle or bone.
NICE guidelines for healthcare staff includes appropriate steps to prevent, and manage, pressure ulcers:
Appropriate care may include:
- An assessment of the risk of an ulcer developing
- Regular re-positioning to avoid pressure on one area of the skin for too long
- Use of equipment (such as pressure relieving mattresses or wheelchair cushions)
- Use of barrier creams
- Examining the skin regularly for early signs of pressure ulcers and ensuring that a developing ulcer is treated
Once an ulcer has developed it can be debilitating and, in some cases, lead to severe consequences such as limb amputation. This is often preventable and failure to do so can be devastating for the individual who will often also be managing a chronic underlying health condition or disability.
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