More than 2.5 million people develop pressure injuries every year in the United States. This type of injury is most common in the elderly and immobile, especially people who are in hospitals, nursing homes, or other long-term healthcare facilities. Pressure injuries, although they can start out easily treatable, can quickly become severe and life-threatening.
According to America’s Health Rankings from the United Health Foundation (UHF), 55.8 million people in the U.S. is aged 65 or older. That’s almost 17% of Americans at risk for pressure injuries, and that’s not even counting younger people who may be immobile for any reason. It’s very important to understand and share with others how common and dangerous pressure injuries can be, what the signs are, and what you can do to prevent them.
What Are Pressure Injuries?
Pressure injuries, also called bedsores or pressure ulcers, develop on the skin in people who are immobile or unable to change their position frequently. Too much pressure on certain areas of the body, without shifting or moving them consistently, limits the blood flow to those areas and causes sores to begin forming. If your body continues to stay in its still, immobile state, the sores will become more severe and can be quite painful and eventually require medical attention or even hospitalization.
There are four stages to pressure injuries, from least to most severe:
- Stage 1: There is redness around the affected area, and it’s possibly warm to the touch, but the skin is still intact. This stage may be harder to notice in darker-skinned individuals.
- Stage 2: The skin on and around the affected area might be thinner, and blisters begin to form.
- Stage 3: The affected area is now an open crater-like wound, and the tissue below the skin is damaged.
- Stage 4: At this stage, the pressure injury is deep enough to cause damage to the muscle and bone and sometimes tendons and joints.
Understanding what pressure injuries are and how dangerous they can be can help raise awareness for a common and usually preventable health issue.
Who Is Most Likely To Get a Pressure Injury?
The elderly or immobile, such as those who live in nursing homes or other long-term healthcare facilities or those confined to beds or wheelchairs, are most at risk for pressure injuries. If you or a loved one is confined to a bed or wheelchair, it’s imperative to change your position frequently, and if you’re unable to move on your own, make sure to have someone around to help you.
If you or your loved one is hospitalized or generally immobile, check in with the staff of the facility to ensure you’re being properly taken care of. Those in a bed should be moved every two hours, and those confined to a wheelchair should be moved about every fifteen minutes.
Dangers of Pressure Injuries
While stage one and two pressure injuries can be milder and easier to care for, these types of injuries can easily move to more severe and potentially life-threatening stages. It’s important to pay attention to the warning signs and to be as educated as possible to ensure that you or your loved one remains in good health. Common warning signs of pressure injuries are as follows:
- An area of the skin that feels cooler or warmer than other areas
- Areas of the skin that are harder or softer than other areas
- Tender areas
- Unusual changes in skin color or texture
- Pus-like draining
If you see any of these symptoms, change your position to relieve the pressure on those areas, and if there is no improvement in 24 to 48 hours, contact your healthcare provider to determine the course of treatment necessary.
What You Can Do To Raise Awareness of the Dangers of Pressure Injuries
Follow prevention tips, keep up with care from your doctor or health team, and check in with the staff at your or your loved one’s healthcare facility to ensure this type of injury doesn’t happen. Here are some tips for staying healthy and preventing pressure injuries:
- Check your or your loved one’s skin every day for the warning signs
- Keep your skin clean and moisturized
- Powder your sheets lightly to prevent rubbing
- Eat healthy foods
- Lose excess weight if possible
- Get plenty of sleep
- Do light exercise if your doctor gives you the OK
- Avoid slipping or sliding when you move positions
The National Pressure Injury Advisory Panel (NPIAP) has declared November 17 Worldwide Pressure Injury Prevention Day, dedicated to increasing awareness about pressure injury prevention and educating the public. While spreading the word about the dangers of pressure injuries on one day of the year is a good start, everyone should read up on and understand just how common these injuries are all year round, especially people who are elderly or immobile, or who know people who fit into these categories. Share the knowledge that you learn with others and talk about it so that they can know what to look for.
McMath Woods, P.A. Can Help
If you or a loved one has developed pressure injuries and need the assistance of legal counsel, our expert team of Little Rock pressure injury attorneys at McMath Woods, P.A. is here for you. Reach out to our office today for a free consultation.