Wharanga pēhanga Pressure injuries

Pressure injuries are sores or ulcers. These are sometimes called pressure sores or bedsores.

What causes pressure injuries

The sores or ulcers caused by pressure injuries happen if you cannot move or change position. You can also get them if you cannot feel the pressure on your skin.

The pressure reduces or stops the blood supply to an area of skin, causing the tissue to break down. This results in a sore or ulcer.

Pressure injuries can also be caused by:

  • oxygen nasal prongs
  • catheters
  • wheelchairs
  • plaster casts
  • splints.

If you experience pain with any of these, contact your healthcare provider or hospital team.

People at risk of pressure injuries

People at risk of pressure injuries include:

  • wheelchair users
  • people sitting in chairs or lying in bed for long periods
  • very young and older people as their skin is thin and fragile
  • people with poor circulation
  • people with nerve damage.

Your risk also increases if you have urinary and bowel incontinence, do not eat well or you smoke.

Treating pressure injuries

It is important to treat pressure injuries as early as possible as they can cause serious problems such as infections.

The main treatment is reducing pressure on the area by frequent changes of position and using pressure relieving aids such special cushions and mattresses.

Other treatments include dressings, creams and medicines.

Severe pressure injuries may need surgery.

Preventing pressure injuries

Most pressure injuries can be prevented.

  • Change position often.
  • Have a healthy diet.
  • Take good care of your skin — moisturise twice a day to keep your skin healthy and reduce the risk of skin tears.

If you are in a wheelchair or sitting for long periods, you should change position every 15 minutes.

If you have to stay in bed for a long time, you should change position at least every 2 hours.

You may be able to get funding to buy the cushions and mattresses that help prevent pressure injuries. Ask your healthcare provider if you could be referred to an occupational therapist or physiotherapist for an assessment.

Carers New Zealand

Advice for whānau members of immobile older people on how to prevent pressure injuries. The page also tells you what to do if you think one is developing.

New Zealand Wound Care Society

What pressure injuries are and which areas of the body are vulnerable. It also tells you who is at risk and what you can do to prevent them. It includes videos about the impact, prevention and treatment of pressure injuries.

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