Pressure ulcers are largely preventable when prevention methods are used early. It is important that you have some understanding of what causes pressure ulcers and how they can be prevented.

What causes pressure ulcers?

  • Pressure ulcers occur as a result of the weight of the body pressing on the skin
  • Also implicated is shear where different layers of skin rub over each other
  • When areas of the body are subjected to pressure, the skin and underlying muscle may not receive an adequate circulation of blood leaving it depleted of oxygen, essential nutrients, and unable to remove waste products.

Early stages of pressure ulcer development are characterized by reddening or discoloration of the skin, along with the possibility of local pain and discomfort. If appropriate treatment is not instigated, they can develop into open wounds damaging the muscle and bone that lie underneath the skin.

What makes me at risk of developing pressure ulcers?

Being unable to change position puts you at risk, as it removes the body’s first line of defense.

Other risk factors include:

  • Not being able to feel pain or discomfort on a part or all of the body
  • Being very ill or undergoing major surgery
  • Being very old or very young
  • Dragging the skin across a surface such as the bed or chair can cause grazing as a result of friction
  • Sliding or slumping down the bed /chair
  • Incontinence and the buildup of moisture may cause the skin to become soft and easily damaged
  • Poor diet
  • Being over or under weight