In the United States, more than 2.5 million people develop pressure ulcers each year. You are at greater risk for pressure injuries if you have chronic incontinence, medical conditions that affect blood flow, memory problems, or overall immobility issues. As with a lot of potentially serious illnesses, pressure ulcers have different stages or levels of severity but can usually be managed with proper care.
Pressure ulcers are a bigger risk for elderly or immobile people who might be living in a nursing home or long-term care facility. If you or someone you know has developed pressure ulcers due to neglect in a nursing home, our expert legal team at McMath Woods P.A. is here to help.
What Are Pressure Ulcers?
A pressure ulcer is an injury to your skin and the tissue underneath because of prolonged pressure on that spot. They often develop in areas of the body where the skin is thinnest, like elbows, heels, ankles, hips, and tailbone.
Often, it takes days for a pressure ulcer to develop, and while most will heal with proper care and treatment, some of these injuries never fully heal. This is why it’s so important to understand how severe pressure ulcers can become and why you should pay close attention to your health and body. If left untreated, they can cause infections and sepsis.
The Four Stages of Pressure Ulcers
If you’ve developed a pressure ulcer, it is vital to your health to get it taken care of, or you can easily end up in the hospital or with irreparable damage to your skin. There are four stages of pressure ulcers, with stage one being the mildest and stage four being the most severe. Stages one and two are usually okay to treat at home, under the guidance of your doctor, but if a pressure ulcer gets to stage three or four, hospitalization or surgery is possible.
According to the National Pressure Injury Advisory Panel (NPIAP), these are the stages of pressure ulcers:
- Stage 1: This is the beginning of the pressure ulcer when it hasn’t fully formed yet. The area will usually be red, painful to touch, and might be either too warm or too cool, or too firm or too soft. Another sign of a pressure ulcer at this stage is if your skin on that area doesn’t turn white when pressed on.
- Stage 2: At this stage, the affected area of your skin is likely very itchy, red, and irritated. This is usually when your skin will begin to break open and form blisters, causing the open sores to appear on your skin. Please consult with your doctor if you think you’re at this stage.
- Stage 3: This is when the pressure sore quickly becomes much worse than in the previous two stages. The tissue below the skin is damaged at this stage, and the affected area is now an open sunken hole or a crater, and you may be able to see body fat in the wound.
- Stage 4: If your pressure injury reaches this stage, it can be very dangerous for your overall health. At this stage, the pressure ulcer is now causing damage to your muscles, bones, tendons, and joints.
Additionally, there are two other types of pressure ulcers that don’t easily fit into the stages. Pressure ulcers covered in dead skin are very difficult to categorize due to not being able to tell how deep the injury is. If your pressure ulcer develops in the tissue deep below the skin, there may be a blood-filled blister, and your skin in that area may be dark. This type of injury can quickly become a stage three or stage four pressure ulcer if left untreated.
Call your doctor immediately if you have any of these signs of infection:
- Bad smell coming from the ulcer
- Pus coming out of the ulcer
- The skin around the ulcer is warm, tender, swollen, or red
Pressure Ulcer Treatment
Depending on the severity of your ulcers, which stage you’re at, and how mobile you are, there are a variety of treatment options available to you. Even if your pressure injuries are at the very beginning stage, it’s still a good idea to consult with your doctor before you begin any kind of treatment and follow their instructions for care.
Pressure ulcers at stages one and two can usually heal quickly if cared for right away and very carefully. For a stage one pressure injury, it’s usually okay to gently wash the affected area with mild soap and water and use a moisture barrier to protect the area. Stage two ulcers can be cleaned with a saline (salt water) rinse to remove any dead tissue and should be covered with gauze or other bandage to keep it clean.
Most pressure injuries will be treated by your doctor if they reach stages three or four, and your provider should give you instructions for care at home. Your doctor can also give you information about special pillows, mattresses, or cushions you can use to help prevent more pressure injuries from developing on your body.
If You’re Hurting, We Can Help
We know that any kind of pain is never something you want to deal with, and when you’re unable to move much on your own, pursuing any kind of litigation for your pressure ulcers can be a daunting task. At McMath Woods P.A., we have an experienced team of Little Rock pressure injury attorneys here to help you seek the compensation you deserve. Reach out to our office today for a free consultation.