Baptist Health Wound Care offers advice on silent epidemic pressure wounds

January 26, 2021

Pressure wounds affect up to 4.5 million times across the nation each year.

(Paducah, Ky.) Jan. 26, 2021A hidden epidemic will affect five percent more people in 2021 than last year, as it strikes up to 4.5 million times across the nation each year. 

Yet, no one talks about it. Although pressure injuries are no longer referred to as bedsores, the name change has not encouraged discussion about these wounds that develop when there is prolonged pressure between the skin and bone.

An aging population, along with rising rates of diabetes and obesity, mean more people are at risk for pressure injuries/ulcers. It is important to become informed and know how to prevent pressure injuries, as well as how to treat them so that they do not get worse and more difficult to cure.

Pressure injuries occur when a person remains in one position for too long without shifting his or her weight, which decreases the blood supply to the area, causing skin and tissue to break down.  If not properly treated, these areas may evolve into wounds that can extend all the way to the bone.

The primary treatment for this painful condition is to relieve or reduce the pressure.  Additional care may also involve removing the non-living tissue from around the wound with surgical instruments or with newly developed dressings and chemicals.

The first visible signs of a pressure injury may be a red area on the skin that does not fade or, for those with darker complexions, persistent areas of red, blue or purple with a different skin temperature or texture. 

In addition to the elderly and people with diabetes, others at risk are those with poor nutrition, incontinence, conditions that prevent blood flow or sensation, or limited mobility such as those in wheelchairs.

The team members at Baptist Health Wound Care offer these tips for lowering your risk:

  • Change your position every 15 minutes when sitting and at least every two hours in bed.
  • Place a pillow under your calves to prevent your heels from touching the bed and using pillows and foam wedges to keep ankles and knees apart.
  • In treating incontinence, cleanse skin and use a topical moisture barrier.  Avoid using plastic-backed linen-saving devices or diapers.
  • Use mild soaps and water when bathing and apply skin moisturizers to prevent dryness.
  • If confined to bed, do not raise the head of the bed more than 30 degrees and use an overhead trapeze to assist in movement.
  • Seek medical treatment if ulcers show warning signs of infection, including increased pain at the wound site, redness or swelling spreading away from the wound, a foul wound odor, change in color or amount of drainage from the wound or if you experience fever, chills, nausea or vomiting. 

For more information about pressure injuries or other chronic wounds, contact Baptist Health Wound Care at 270.575.2414.  Physician referral not required.