What is a Pressure Ulcer?
Pressure ulcers – also referred to as bedsores or pressure sores – are wounds that develop due to tissue damage caused by friction, shear, and pressure on vulnerable areas of the body. They can affect the skin and underlying tissue, causing discomfort and pain. In severe cases, pressure ulcers can extend through the muscle as deep as the bone which can lead to further complications.
Fortunately, our understanding of how and why pressure ulcers form is now reasonably reliable. By understanding the risk factors and remaining vigilant for early warning signs, caregivers can help prevent pressure ulcers from forming and aid in the healing process.
In this blog post, Parafricta aims to help you spot these early indicators and to understand how pressure ulcers are treated today.
Symptoms of Pressure Ulcers
Although a developed pressure ulcer will appear as a blister or an open sore, the early warning signs are harder to spot. They tend to start as swelling, discoloration, or changes in texture on the skin. This may be accompanied by temperature variations, which you will be able to detect by touch alone. If left untreated, these early symptoms can progress into what’s known as a stage two pressure ulcer:
- Stage 1: Stage one pressure ulcers are painful areas of unbroken skin that may appear reddened. The area may also feel cooler / warmer to touch than surrounding areas of skin.
- Stage 2: Stage two pressure ulcers look like shallow wounds or blisters, occurring when the skin breaks open due to friction and associated shearing forces, potentially combined with prolonged pressure.
- Stage 3: Stage three pressure ulcers begin to extend into the tissue beneath the skin. These are particularly severe wounds that may begin to expose layers of fat.
- Stage 4: Stage four pressure ulcers are extremely deep injuries that can penetrate through muscle down to the bone. These open wounds can cause damage to both tendons and joints.
Who’s at Risk of Pressure Ulcer Formation?
Pressure ulcers form on areas of the body that are exposed to the forces of friction, shearing, and pressure for long periods. People with limited or no mobility at high risk of developing pressure ulcers, as are people whose restlessness causes them to repeatedly rub their heels, for example, on the bed. Clinicians also believe that individuals with medical conditions limiting blood flow could be affected, but the elderly are by far the biggest at-risk group.
Common Sites of Pressure Ulcers
Although pressure ulcers can form on many parts of the body, the underlying risk factors mean that they usually occur in the following areas:
- Buttocks, hips, and tailbone;
- Heels and ankles;
- Shoulder blades and backs of the arms;
- Spine and lower back.
Complications of Pressure Ulcers
Many additional complications can occur due to pressure ulcers, including skin and soft tissue infections (cellulitis), bone infections (osteomyelitis), and joint infections (septic arthritis).
In extremely rare cases, late-stage pressure ulcers can lead to sepsis. Patients with long-term, persistent stage three and four pressure ulcers may be at a higher risk of cancer.
Treating Pressure Ulcers
Prevention is key in pressure ulcer treatment. It is important to be aware of the risks and consistently monitor for early symptoms if you have – or someone under your care has – mobility issues. A movement schedule can help relieve pressure on affected areas, such as the buttocks and hips of patients who use a wheelchair. It’s important to note that movement coaching may be required to ensure that patients are moved with care, to avoid friction and shear.
If you would like to learn more about prevention and treatment, read our previous blog post: How to Treat Pressure Ulcers?
Products to Ease Pressure Ulcer Discomfort
Although readjustment is critical in prevention and treatment, it can also be a painful and slow solution. There are products designed to ease this discomfort without reducing the effectiveness of dressings. Parafricta fabric is an extremely soft textile designed to moderate the friction between a person’s skin and a surface.
If we go back to the example of the wheelchair; undergarments made with Parafricta materials present a low-friction barrier between the trunk of the body and the seat, making sliding movements easier and less painful than ever before. Using Parafricta undergarments, two factors contributing to pressure ulcer development (friction and shear) are all but eliminated.
While it’s always worth consulting your care team before purchasing new products for pressure ulcer treatment, research has increasingly shown that Parafricta technology offers numerous clinical benefits and is a promising development for the routine reduction of skin damage for at-risk patients.
About APA Parafricta Ltd.
APA Parafricta Ltd. is a wound care company built around a single proprietary fabric. This unique material has proven benefits for pressure ulcer management and treatment, and is available for use in hospitals, care homes, and out in the community. If you need more information about our limited material, read Introducing Parafricta Low-Friction Fabric. Otherwise, contact a member of the Parafricta team today to hear how we can help you manage the risk and discomfort of pressure ulcers.