Part of the GET WISE series from BHTA is a guide to pressure ulcer prevention in sitting.
This leaflet is designed to help users and carers in the public domain to learn more about preventing pressure ulcers when sitting in a chair or wheelchair. It is not intended for clinicians. The leaflet was put together by BHTA Industry Expert Members.
What is a pressure ulcer?
A pressure ulcer is any area of localised damage to the skin and underlying soft tissue. There are a number of risk factors, including age, diagnosis, medication, continence, nutrition, mobility, and weight. There are also other factors not specific to the person, such as the support surface, temperature, and moisture.
Whilst sitting, the skin and soft tissues get squeezed and deformed between the bone and the support surface. Over time this can cause the cells to die and the area of resulting dead tissue is called a pressure ulcer.
Tip - Everyone is potentially at risk of developing a pressure ulcer.
Why is sitting important in pressure ulcer prevention?
When sitting in an upright stable position, we still have localised high pressure areas:
- Through buttocks and thighs: 75%
- Through the feet: 19%
- Through the arm supports: 2%
- Through the back support: 4%
Therefore, posture and pressure are linked, with both affecting one another.
Why might someone be at risk of pressure ulcers?
- Neurological impairment
- Changes in body shape and size
- Little or no active movement
- Movements that are difficult to control
- Lack of body awareness and/or sensory impairments
- Difficulty communicating discomfort
What are the signs and symptoms to look out for?
Early symptoms of a pressure ulcer include:
- Persistent discolouration of the skin
- Discoloured patches not turning white when pressed
- A patch of skin that feels warm, spongy, or hard
- Pain or itchiness in the affected area
- The skin may not be broken at first, but if the pressure ulcer gets worse, it can form an open wound or blister
- A deep wound that reaches the deeper layers of the skin
- A very deep wound that may reach the muscle and bone
How does a pressure ulcer affect a person?
- The impact of a pressure ulcer on a person is significant, with their being affected physically, psychologically, socially, emotionally, spiritually, and financially
- Pressure ulcers are often painful and debilitating
- Infected ulcers can cause an unpleasant odour and further health problems
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