If you’re recovering from surgery or illness, or helping someone who is, you need all the information you can get on how to prevent pressure ulcers. Being bedridden is bad enough without pressure ulcers adding further complications, so preventing them in the first place is a top priority.
Knowing ways to prevent pressure ulcers is a must. And luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent pressure ulcers from forming - which is precisely what we will go over today.
Before we get into how to prevent pressure ulcers, let’s talk briefly about what pressure ulcers are and why they form. Once that information is under your belt, we have several simple and effective tips to give you everything you need to know about how to prevent pressure ulcers.
What is a pressure ulcer?
Pressure ulcers are also commonly known as bedsores. They can be sore discolored patches on your skin, or open wounds that go all the way down to the bone.
The first thing you need to know about pressure ulcers is that, like with many health issues, prevention is preferable to pressure ulcer treatment. That is to say, taking the steps on how to prevent pressure ulcers definitely pays off.
At their mildest, pressure ulcers are a discomfort. At their worst, they can require amputation. If a bedsore is not treated effectively, it can also drastically elongate the healing process.
What causes a pressure ulcer to form?
A pressure ulcer forms from continued pressure on the skin and underlying tissue. Pressure ulcers are most often found on skin or soft tissue that covers bony areas of the body. The heels, ankles, hips, and tailbone are all areas to pay close attention to if you want to know how to prevent pressure ulcers.
Extended periods without movement can compromise the circulation in areas of skin and tissue that are under pressure. Circulation is important, because the steady flow of oxygenated blood transports necessary resources to the cells in your body.
Your cells work continuously while using energy and resources to keep your body going. A temporary restriction of blood to an area of soft tissue in the body is no cause for concern, but if that soft tissue is burdened with continuous compression, then this will damage it.
This damage is a small separation, or hardening and inflammation/scabbing of the skin. This damage is referred to as a pressure ulcer. As well as looking unsightly and causing some discomfort, this separation to the skin carries the same health risks as other wounds: the possibility of infection from foreign bacteria and viruses.
While you are recovering from your primary health issue, the last thing your body needs is to have its recovery sidetracked by fighting a secondary infection. With this in mind, knowing how to prevent pressure ulcers becomes even more important.
Pressure ulcers can develop over days of rest, or over mere hours; so knowing how to prevent pressure ulcers should be a concern from even day one of bedrest, or assignment to a wheelchair.
Additional causes of pressure ulcers
While pressure ulcers usually occur when soft tissue is squeezed together between bone and external surfaces, they can also form from rough contact or sliding on surfaces.
The condition of the skin is also a very important factor. Skin that is too dry will rub irritably against bed sheets or some mattress protectors which may increase the chance of creating pressure ulcers.
It is also vitally important that patients are kept clean and hygienic. Skin becomes more fragile and compromised if it is exposed to contact with urine or stool, which is much more likely to be an issue if a recovering patient is not able to take themselves to the toilet, or is relying on absorbent pads.
A recovering patient or caregiver who is wondering how to prevent pressure ulcers should also not overlook the importance of good nutrition. How does nutrition affect pressure ulcers?
Protein is of particular importance to patients recovering from wounds.
To give a quick example: Collagen protein helps protect soft skin tissue at risk from ulcers, as well as speeding up wound healing recovery - giving pressure ulcers less time to occur.
Even during periods of extended rest, the body may actually require a protein surplus to give it the resources it needs to recover from illness or surgery.
Who is most at risk of pressure ulcers?
Pressure ulcers are most likely to form on people who have medical conditions that temporarily or permanently limit movement.
Wheelchair users are often looking for advice on how to prevent pressure ulcers because their continued seated position applies excess pressure to the buttocks for a long period of time without respite.
So too are bedridden patients at risk from pressure ulcers. If you or the person you are caring for does not frequently change position, ulcers are likely to form on the skin and soft tissue that is sandwiched between a bony area and the surface of the bed.
Many recovering patients are best placed at home, where they are in a familiar environment and under the supervision of a caregiver. After a stay in a hospital, it’s important to check for hospital-acquired pressure injuries that may not have been detected.
The cost of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers is considerable, as their presence exposes patients to further complications that extend hospital stays and creates crowding in wards. For this reason, once a patient is stable, they are often sent for rest at home.
The good news is that most sores heal with treatment. That being said, if you have an underlying condition like diabetes, or another condition that affects your circulation, you may never heal completely.
With this in mind, it is crucial to understand the ways to prevent pressure ulcers - and to apply them.
4 clear ways to prevent pressure ulcers
When it comes to knowing how to prevent pressure ulcers, a holistic approach is best. That’s why we’ve compiled this list for anyone going through, or helping someone else to go through, this issue.
Here are our top tips for how to prevent pressure ulcers.
1. Relieve direct pressure
As we’ve learned, pressure ulcers can form in just a few short hours if your body weight is pinching soft skin tissue between your skeleton and the surface you are resting on.
It’s important that you are proactive about moving yourself to a different, comfortable position every 1-2 hours.
Of course, a bedridden patient may have a seriously compromised ability to do this for themself. That’s why repositioning and helping the general comfort of patients is part of a nurse’s role in pressure ulcer prevention.
If you’re recovering from home, your caregiver should delicately reposition your bodyweight so that no one area of the body is continuously squeezed.
If you’re in the position of the patient, be sure to advise your caregiver on any areas of your body that you feel may have been under pressure for a period of time; paying special attention to the heels, ankles, hips, and tailbone.
If you’re in the position of the caregiver, make sure to check in with the patient about how these areas are feeling. Explaining why you’re checking these areas will help the patient to understand and rationalize what they are going through.
2. Proactively search for pressure ulcers
The next tip on how to prevent pressure ulcers is to actively look for signs that they are starting!
There are visual cues that go hand-in-hand with discomfort. It is easier to monitor for the initial signs of pressure ulcers from the position of the caregiver, particularly as bed sores so often occur on the back and tailbone area; out of view of the patient.
Some visual signs of pressure ulcers include:
red, discolored skin that stays red when you press on it
an area of skin that changes texture/hardness
- skin with different temperature than surrounding areas
From the position of the patient, it doesn’t hurt to ask your caregiver to check areas of your body that you yourself cannot see - particularly if you feel some discomfort in those areas.
Initially, this can be a delicate issue to broach with a caregiver, as pressure ulcers so often form in delicate, private, or sensitive areas. However, a quick second opinion is always preferable to having to treat a growing pressure ulcer at a later date.
Early prevention in this way is how to prevent pressure ulcers from developing.
3. Monitor your skin condition
If you want to know how to prevent pressure ulcers, a vital step is taking time to consider your skin condition.
Skin should be clean, dry to the touch, and well-moisturized. These three conditions give skin the best fighting chance of resisting the stresses and strains that cause pressure ulcers.
As a patient, if you are unable to take baths or showers, your caregiver should now be responsible for administering regular sponge baths and cleanups. Your skin should avoid prolonged contact with urine, stool, blood, or discharge from wounds.
Caregivers, wash your patient carefully using mild soaps and temperate water. If your patient is frustrated by their condition, they are more likely to put up with a thorough cleaning if the temperature of the water is to their liking.
A patient may move suddenly when being exposed to water that is too hot or too cold for them, and sudden movements may damage the skin and lead to pressure ulcers.
Drying the skin is also important. Dab to dry the skin gently with a clean towel. Rubbing the skin will irritate it and could lead to pressure ulcers, so gentle pressure, particularly around sensitive areas, is the way to go.
Talcum powder dries out the skin from the inside, leaving it brittle and prone to damage. Therefore it should be avoided when practicing how to prevent pressure ulcers. An over-reliance on oils is also detrimental as it can interfere with the natural balance of the skin's own oils.
Instead, just use a mild moisturizer to keep skin from becoming brittle and coarse.
4. Eat a balanced diet
The last of our tips for how to prevent pressure ulcers has to do with nutrition.
A human body that is going through recovery still needs great nutrition and hydration. That is because even if limited mobility is reducing the need for energy to be converted into movement, healing is very intensive on the calories.
Water and carbohydrates, but most of all protein, should be a clear consideration for any patient looking to know how to prevent pressure ulcers. That is because fueling the body with collagen protein is a great natural defense to keep it strong when under the pressure of limited movement.
Collagen for pressure ulcers
Collagen is the major player when it comes to wound management and the body’s response to ulcers.
As we get older, our skin loses some of its bounce and elasticity because the body has slowed down its production of collagen protein. With less collagen to go round, skin cells lose some of the cushion and strength that they once had.
To make up for this, and to properly protect your body from pressure ulcers, consider a protein supplement, particularly hydrolyzed collagen for pressure ulcers.
Why? Hydrolyzed collagen is easy to digest and absorb, so you know that your body is stocked with ample reserves.
Taking collagen for pressure ulcers is a simple way to help speed wound healing and prevent pressure ulcers from forming to begin with. While there are a large range of collagen products on the market, it’s best to look for a medical-grade, hydrolyzed collagen supplement like ProT Gold.
ProT Gold collagen is trusted for use in daily medical nutrition by thousands of medical facilities across the USA. Both the powder and liquid form are proven to fully digest in 15 minutes or less, making supplementation with ProT Gold collagen one of the simplest steps you can take to prevent pressure ulcers.