A pressure wound is a damaged area of skin that is typically caused by staying in one position for too long. It is usually also referred to as a bed sore since people who are bedridden tend to get them the most. While patients who spend most of their time in a hospital or nursing home bed seem most prone to them, it is also possible to get a pressure wound from being on bed rest or in a wheelchair for a short time while recovering from surgery. These types of wounds can usually be treated by a doctor, but if infection occurs and spreads, they can be deadly.
Pressure sores are caused by staying in one position for so long that the blood supply to the affected area is cut off. Most often, this occurs on bony areas of the body, such as hips, heels, ankles, the tailbone, knees, shoulders, and the head. While being in a wheelchair or a bed for the majority of the day is a major risk factor, even those who can walk are subject to these types of wounds. For example, those with delicate skin, malnourishment, or a condition like diabetes that reduces proper blood flow throughout the body are all at risk for pressure wounds.
There are various phases of a pressure wound, as it usually gradually gets worse when not treated. The first stage occurs when the skin looks red, blue, or purple and seems to radiate heat. If this remains untreated, it could become an open sore that resembles a blister, often with discolored skin surrounding it. The next step is the wound becoming deeper, with the most severe kind of pressure wound following if it is not taken care of soon. The most serious stage may involve an infection, and can even affect the tissue so much that bones and muscles are compromised.
The main way to avoid a pressure wound is to regularly change positions when sitting or lying down for hours at a time. Nursing home and hospital staff are typically trained to turn over patients frequently so that they do not get pressure wounds. If a bed sore is acquired anyway, the first step is to stay off it at all times. Putting pillows between the sore and the bed can help keep weight off the sore.
If the pressure wound has reached the stage where it is an open sore, it needs to be kept clean and free of dead tissue. A mild sore can be cleaned with soap and water, but a more advanced wound should be gently cleaned with a saltwater solution. The pressure wound should then be covered with gauze, which should be changed daily each time the sore is cleaned. Taking such steps should help promote healing and prevent infection.