Pressure ulcers can develop in as little as four hours, so it is essential to know how to grade them.

Pressure ulcers are unfortunately common, but many are completely avoidable. If you’re confined to a bed or if you sit in a chair or wheelchair for long periods of time, you may be familiar with this painful health problem.

Also known as pressure sores or ulcers, these are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue primarily caused by prolonged pressure on the skin. If you or someone you know is at risk of developing pressure ulcers, it’s essential to know what to look for in pressure ulcer grading.

Where Can I Find Pressure Ulcers?

Any part of the body that is under pressure (from the bed or chair) can be affected, but you’ll most commonly find them on bones close to the skin, such as the heels, elbows, hips and base of the spine.

Pressure ulcers will often develop gradually, but it’s not unusual for them to form in a few hours too. In fact, it has been known for pressure ulcers to develop in as little as four hours on a hospital trolley, which shows just how important it is to know the signs.

What Are the Symptoms of Pressure Ulcers?

If you’re at risk, you should regularly assess your skin for any changes. Subsequently, symptoms can be divided into categories, which enables you to quickly grade pressure ulcers. This is an important step to decipher the severity and apply the correct course of treatment. The NHS has launched a fantastic Stop the Pressure Campaign with tissue viability nurses to increase awareness about pressure ulcers and provide more information to patients.

Take a look at the different categories below, along with the symptoms to look for in each one.

Category One Pressure Ulcer

To begin with, you’ll notice discoloured skin that doesn’t go away. A useful note to keep in mind is that people with pale skin tend to get red patches, while those with dark skin might get purple or blue patches. You may also notice that the discoloured patches will not turn white when pressed. They can feel warm, spongy or hard, and there may be pain or itchiness in the area.

Category Two Pressure Ulcer

If a category one pressure ulcer gets worse, it can form a blister or open wound. This area should be relatively easy to clean. However, if the wound looks more complicated, it may be a category three ulcer.

Category Three Pressure Ulcer

A blister or open wound can progress to the deeper layers of skin, which creates a category three pressure ulcer. You may see subcutaneous fat visible, which sits under the skin.

Category Four Pressure Ulcer

Finally, the deep wound can reach the muscle and bone, which results in a category four pressure ulcer. In these cases, exposed bone, tendon or muscle will be visible.

If you develop symptoms of a pressure ulcer, it’s vital to seek a medical opinion as soon as possible, as if left untreated, the ulcer can worsen. However, if you notice pus coming from the pressure ulcer, a temperature or worsening pain, these symptoms could be a sign of severe infection and you should seek medical advice immediately.

When possible, try to change your position at least every two hours, and alternate between your back and sides. Make regular body checks, and if you notice anything different, compare the patch against the various categories. You can also use pressure-relief cushions to raise body parts up and away from the pressure point.

If you’re struggling with pressure ulcers, Airospring has designed a unique range of products that provide greater comfort and protection for relief, including cushions and mattress toppers. Each cushion is made from at least three layers of fabric, which spread the weight around between them so that the pressure isn’t localised on one small area. View our products today.