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Getting support for pressure ulcers

Pressure ulcers, also known as bed sores or pressure sores, are areas of damage to your skin and underlying tissue that develop from lying or sitting in one place for a long time without moving.

What is a pressure ulcer?

Pressure ulcers occur when skin and tissue is damaged by pressure being placed on one area of the body for a long time. The most common areas of concern are elbows, heels, and buttocks, but they can occur in any area of the body.

Anyone can develop pressure ulcers. However, they are more likely to affect people with limited mobility, or people who use wheelchairs or other chairs for long periods.

How do I know if I have a pressure ulcer?

It’s important to monitor the skin regularly to check for changes to the skin or other signs of damage. The most common sign that a pressure sore is beginning to develop is a discoloured patch of skin that does not change colour when pressure is applied. Usually, the patches are red on white skin and purple or blue on Black or brown skin.

Other signs are:

  • An area of skin that feels warmer to touch
  • A change in texture such as dry or flaky skin

It is important to give immediate, thorough, and ongoing care to these areas as pressure ulcers are painful and unpleasant. You should speak to GP or healthcare professional as soon as you notice any pressure ulcer symptoms. Don’t wait for any symptoms to worsen. In the early stages, pressure ulcers can be easier to treat. But if left untreated, pressure sores can be sensitive to infection, in some cases they can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Preventing pressure ulcers

There are things you can do at home to help to limit the risk of developing a pressure ulcer. These can include:

  • Using a pressure-relieving cushion or mattress, if prescribed
  • Change or be supported to change your sleeping and/or sitting position
  • Check or be supported to check your skin daily

Speak to your GP, occupational therapist (OT) or other healthcare staff about what you can do help prevent pressure sores. They will be able to give you advice or recommendations that are suitable to you specifically.

Your local NHS Trust will have a Tissue Viability Service, usually staffed by a nursing specialist. You can ask about a referral to them from your GP or District Nurse, to be assessed for pressure sores.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has guidance on the prevention and management of pressure ulcers on their website.

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