It is estimated it costs the NHS between £1.4 and £2.1 billion each year to treat pressure ulcers, which is almost four percent of total NHS expenditure. But what are pressure ulcers?
A pressure ulcer is damage that occurs on the skin and underlying tissue. They develop when the weight of the body presses down on skin, combined with friction, from a bed or wheelchair for example. The first sign that a pressure ulcer may be forming is usually discoloured skin, which may get progressively worse and eventually lead to an open wound. They tend to appear more when in areas like the bottom, heel, hip, elbow, ankle, shoulder, back and the back of the head.
Who can get them?
Anyone can get a pressure ulcer, but some people are more likely to develop one than others. People may be at risk of getting a pressure ulcer if, for example, they:
- have problems moving and cannot change position by themselves without help
- cannot feel pain over part or all of their body
- are incontinent
- are seriously ill or undergoing surgery
- have had pressure ulcers in the past
- have a poor diet and don’t drink enough water
- are very old or very young
- have damaged their spinal cord and can neither move nor feel their
- bottom and legs
- are older people who are ill or have suffered an injury, for example a broken hip.
Pressure ulcers affect over 700,000 people each year, with 180,000 patients developing a pressure ulcer in hospital every year, however, research suggests that between 80-95% are preventable.
If you think that someone you know may be developing a pressure ulcer speak to your GP or community nurse. More information can be found at www.nhs.uk