Beginning Signs of a Pressure Sore

Senior man sleeping in bed
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For the sake of their loved ones, caregivers often want to find out how they can spot the beginning signs that a pressure sore is forming.

Also known as bedsores or pressure ulcers, pressure sores have a way of sneaking up on patients and caregivers alike, so you may not realize there's a problem until the damage is done. If you have determined that your loved one is at risk of developing a pressure sore, check her skin daily for any signs that an ulcer has begun.

Recognizing a Pressure Sore's Early Signs

When you check the skin for signs of a developing pressure ulcer, compare the flesh around the bony areas that are most commonly affected by friction or sustained pressure. Look, in particular, for changes in color. The skin over bony areas (lower back, hips, heels, elbows, etc.) may appear reddened and may or may not turn white when pressed. The skin may also appear bruised, showing a blue, purple, or black hue.

Temperature changes may also indicate the early development of a pressure sore. Compared to the skin surrounding the affected area, the beginning stage of a pressure ulcer may feel warm to the touch or, alternatively, cool to the touch.

Skin consistency may change when a pressure sore develops. The beginning stage of a pressure ulcer may make the affected skin feel firm to the touch or, on the other hand, may make it feel boggy. Boggy skin can best be described as flesh that feels as though it’s filled with fluid.

In other words: If the skin in an area prone to experiencing a pressure sore is unlike the skin surrounding that area, you've got evidence of elevated risk.

In addition, changes in sensation may accompany a developing pressure sore. Your loved one may start complaining about pain, tingling, or itching in affected areas.

How to Prevent Pressure Sores

If you notice any of these early warning signs, alert your healthcare provider immediately. If you haven’t already done so, implement the steps to prevent a pressure ulcer from forming. These include turning the patient every couple of hours to prevent sores from developing in vulnerable areas, such as the lower back, hips, heels, and elbows. 

Don't wake your loved one up in the middle of the night to prevent pressure sores, however. Allow her to get her rest if she's sleeping soundly. Should she awaken on your watch, use the opportunity to turn her. 

You can also prevent pressure sores from developing by purchasing egg-crate mattresses or chair pads. Egg-crate surfaces distribute pressure more evenly. 

Fluidized air mattresses also help to prevent pressure sores from forming. They're filled with glass beads that liquefy when the air is pumped into them. Although they relieve pressure, it can be difficult to move patients in and out of bed with such mattresses, so they're typically reserved for fully bed-bound patients.

Wrapping Up

If you're still not sure how to spot the beginning signs that a pressure sore is forming or what to do to prevent the ulcers from developing, don't hesitate to consult a healthcare professional. Ask any questions you have about pressure sores and ask for pamphlets, illustrations, or other materials that will help you to better identify and treat them.

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