Pressure Ulcer Treatment: Understanding Your Options
Pressure ulcers, commonly known as “bedsores” or pressure injuries, are caused by constant friction and pressure on particular parts of the body, causing damage in the underlying tissue, coupled with inflammation and even infection.
They are most often associated with people in wheelchairs or those that spend prolonged amounts of time lying down. They can also be quite painful and are difficult to treat. In this post, we will discuss the best evidence-based treatment strategies and products that support optimum healing and skin repair.
Pressure Ulcer Treatment - What You Need To Know
There are a lot of options for pressure ulcer treatment, ranging from simple DIY remedies to expensive over-the-counter or prescription ointments and medications. Depending on how you got your pressure ulcer and how serious it is, you may work with a medical professional to ensure infection control and high-quality care. If you acquired your bedsore in a hospital or medical facility, for example, they hold some responsibility for its development and are held financially responsible for all treatment procedures.
What Is A Pressure Ulcer?
A pressure ulcer happens when an area of skin, generally over a prominent bony structure, experiences excessive friction and breakdown. These commonly occur in settings where one is confined to a bed or a chair and is spending a lot of time in the same position. A pressure ulcer develops when there is significant damage not only to the upper layers of skin but in the deep bodily tissues beneath.
You are at high-risk for developing bedsores if you:
- Use a wheelchair
- Stay in bed for prolonged periods
- Are an older adult
- Have trouble moving on your own
- Are diabetic
- Have poor circulation/blood flow
- Have weak skin and/or impaired healing
- Are incontinent (moisture exacerbates skin breakdown)
- Have nutritional deficiencies (especially protein)
- Are mentally impaired
Pressure sores can happen anywhere on your body but are common at the bottom of the spine, on the buttocks, over the hip bones, on the soles of the feet, ankles, over the elbow joint, on the back of the head, and on the shoulders.
Stages of Pressure Injuries
Developing a bedsore doesn’t happen overnight. These develop over several days/weeks of being bedridden or staying in similar positions the majority of the day/night. It is important to know the stages of bedsores and what they look like so you can catch them early and begin treating them immediately. The more severe bedsore, the more difficult and painful it is to treat.
Stage 1 Bedsores
The affected area will be reddened and painful to the touch. A classic symptom of a stage 1 bedsore is the skin will not turn white when pressed. The skin may be warm or cool at this point.
Stage 2 Bedsores
During stage 2, the skin will begin to blister or become an open sore. It may look similar to a bad sunburn. The area around will be red and irritated.
Stage 3 Bedsores
A pressure injury becomes a stage 3 when the skin develops a sunken hole called a crater. This is a sign that the deep layers of skin are seriously compromised and unable to support the upper layers. Body fat may be visible in the crater, and the skin will be dark red and painful.
Stage 4 Bedsores
If a pressure injury reaches stage 4, the damage has penetrated to the muscles and bones, and possibly full joints and tendons. At this stage, the wound will be very deep, and one will likely see body fat, muscle tissue, and even bone.
Some bedsores are unstageable due to a layer of dead skin covering up the damage. These will often appear yellow, tan, green, brown, or even black due to dead/dying skin tissue. One will be unable to tell the extent of the damage until this tissue is removed.
How Does A Pressure Ulcer Heal?
With careful and consistent care, a bedsore can heal fully. The larger the pressure sore and the more advanced it is, the more time it will take to treat it. Again, a pressure ulcer takes days/weeks to develop and will take equally as long to fully heal.
There are many treatments for bedsores, most of which you can do yourself at home. Here is how to properly care for a pressure ulcer in the early stages. If you think your pressure sore has progressed to a stage 3 or 4, it is important to work with a medical professional to ensure proper healing and prevention of infection. It is important to recognize that in it’s late stages, a pressure ulcer is an open wound that is susceptible to infection, especially in those who may be immune-compromised.
1. Relieve The Pressure
The number one thing you need to do to begin the healing process for a pressure ulcer is to relieve the pressure! This can be tricky because if you’re bedridden or have difficulty moving, it’s likely to become a habit to have continual pressure on the spot where you developed the bedsore. But to prevent things from getting worse, getting off of the pressure injury should be your top priority.
Using pillows, foam cushions, or other prop devices, you can lift the area up, so that it is not touching your bed/chair. For example, if you have a pressure ulcer on your right hip bone, you can prop pillows under your buttocks so that you are laying on your side and the pressure ulcer is off the bed. If you have pressure ulcers on your ankles, prop a pillow under your calves so that they are no longer touching the mattress.
You can also try sitting in a chair rather than lying in your bed, or rotating between sitting/lying down more frequently. In most medical facilities, staff will rotate bedridden patients at least every two hours to help prevent skin breakdown.
It is important to think about how to prevent the development of new pressure ulcers. You may be tempted to lie on only one side while the wound is healing, but this will only guarantee the formation of a new sore on the opposite side. Change positions frequently. If you are capable of getting up and walking around, you should try to do this every two hours or more to help increase blood flow and take the pressure off your bony prominences.
2. Use Liquid Collagen Protein to Heal Faster
Protein is a vital nutrient in healing from any injury, and pressure ulcers are no exception. There are two big reasons one should consider protein supplementation during pressure ulcer treatment: One, patients with chronic pressure ulcers lose some of their protein stores through open wounds and body fluids. Two, protein is the building block for restoring healthy skin and plays a big role in the speed of recovery.
One should focus on consuming high-quality protein from their diet from sources such as chicken, fish, beef, beans, nuts, tofu, or other complete protein sources. The recommended daily protein intake is about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight but may be increased for someone who is already deficient or recovering from an injury.
On top of this, supplementation with a fortified, hydrolyzed collagen supplement may be beneficial. Collagen is a complex structural protein that makes up a large portion of our skin, tendons, and other connective tissues. Because it is not found in most meat products (most people aren’t eating the skin/bones/tendons of animal products, which is where collagen is stored) the best way to get collagen is through a supplement.
In a study published in Advances in Skin & Wound Care: The Journal for Prevention and Healing, researches spent 8 weeks studying the impact of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation on patients recovering from pressure ulcers.
They found that after 8 weeks of standard care + collagen supplementation, patients healed twice as quickly as those receiving standard care + placebo.
Another study published in the US National Library of Medicine concluded that patients taking an oral collagen supplement as part of their pressure ulcer treatment plan experienced significantly greater improvements than those who ingested a placebo. Researchers of this study also explained that extracellular matrices (collagen, etc), which are key to tissue repair, are not gained from a typical diet and are gained mainly from proper supplementation.
Wondering where you can get fortified liquid collagen protein for your pressure ulcer treatment?
ProT Gold is a high-quality, fortified, medical-grade hydrolyzed collagen supplement that is trusted by over 3,000 medical facilities. In an independent case study, ProT Gold was found to heal wounds twice as fast as other products. You can order it directly online to have it shipped to your home and use in conjunction with your other treatments.
3. Keep The Area Clean and Dry
Moisture exacerbates skin breakdown, so it is important to keep a pressure ulcer clean and dry. If a pressure sore develops on the buttocks or near your genital area, try to prevent urine or sweat from sitting on or near the pressure sore.
Stage 1 pressure ulcers may be cleaned with warm water and soap. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or other products that may further damage the skin. You only want to use products that are gentle, protective, and won’t cause further harm. If your pressure ulcer is advanced, your healthcare provider will likely give you an antibacterial cream or an oral antibiotic to help treat/prevent potential infection. Follow their instructions carefully on how to care for your pressure ulcer.
With stage 2 and stage 3 pressure injuries, you can use an antibacterial spray to clean the wound every few hours. Once it is clean, you can dry the area with non-adhesive gauze and cover with a fresh dressing. Some pressure ulcers may need to be left uncovered if they are in an area prone to excessive sweating or possible urine contamination. Follow your doctor’s advice for the specifics to your wound.
Finding the Right Pressure Ulcer Treatment Products
When choosing pressure ulcer treatment products, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Search for medical-grade antibacterial sprays and skin barrier ointments/creams. Other treatment for bedsores may include analgesic creams to provide pain relief, anti-inflammatory drugs, and clean non-adhesive dressings and gauze.Ensuring you are consuming a nutrient-dense diet combined with a high-quality collagen supplement will help provide your body with the building blocks it needs to heal, as well as keep your immune system functioning optimally.