A pressure sore is an area of the skin that breaks down when something keeps rubbing or pressing against the skin. Pressure sores occur when there is too much pressure on the skin for too long. This reduces blood flow to the area. Without enough blood, the skin can die and a sore may form. Pressure sores are grouped by the severity of symptoms starting from stage I to stage IV. Stage I is the mildest stage while stage IV is the worst.
- Stage I
It is characterized by a reddened, painful area on the skin that does not turn white when pressed. This is a sign that a pressure ulcer is forming. The skin may be warm or cool, firm or soft.
- Stage II:
The skin blisters or forms an open sore. The area around the sore may be red and irritated.
- Stage III:
The skin now develops an open, sunken hole called a crater. The tissue below the skin is damaged. You may be able to see body fat in the crater.
- Stage IV:
The pressure ulcer has become so deep that there is damage to the muscle and bone, and sometimes to tendons and joints.
There are two other types of pressure sores that don’t fit into the stages.
Caring for a Pressure Sore
Stage I or II sores will heal if cared for carefully. Stage III and IV sores are harder to treat and may take a long time to heal. Here’s how to care for a pressure sore at home.
Stage I or II sores
Stage I and II sores will heal easily if cared for carefully. Always keep the wound clean to prevent infection. Clean the sore every time you change a dressing. For a stage I sore, you can wash the area gently with mild soap and water. If needed, use a moisture barrier to protect the area from bodily fluids. Stage II pressure sores should be cleaned with a saltwater (saline) rinse to remove loose, dead tissue. DO NOT use hydrogen peroxide or iodine cleansers. They can damage skin. Keep the sore covered with a special dressing. This protects against infection and helps keep the sore moist so it can heal.
Stage III and IV
Most stage III and IV sores can be technical to treat and therefor you should seek guidance and help from your caregiver provider. Ask about any special instructions for home care. Avoid further injury or friction. Powder your sheets lightly so your skin doesn’t rub on them in bed. Avoid slipping or sliding as you move positions. Try to avoid positions that put pressure on your sore. Care for healthy skin by keeping it clean and moisturized. Check your skin for pressure sores every day. Ask your caregiver or someone you trust to check areas you can’t see. If the pressure sore changes or a new one forms, tell your provider. Eat healthy foods, getting the right nutrition and lose excess weight. Get plenty of sleep and do gentle stretches or light exercises because this can help you improve circulation.
Relieve the pressure on the area.
Use special pillows, foam cushions such as cushion for pressures sore on buttocks, booties, or mattress pads to reduce the pressure. Some pads are water- or air-filled to help support and cushion the area. What type of cushion you use depends on your wound and whether you are in bed or in a wheelchair. Talk with your health care provider about what choices would be best for you, including what shapes and types of material.
Change positions often.
If you are in a wheelchair, try to change your position every 15 minutes. If you are in bed, you should be moved about every 2 hours.