Pressure Ulcers, Part 2: Risk Factors and Prevention Tips

Online Exclusive posted Friday, March 16, 2012 – 3:41pm

Be aware of the risk factors and learn prevention strategies to prevent pressure ulcers.

By becoming aware of the risk factors as well as prevention strategies, you can greatly decrease your odds of encountering pressure ulcers.

Assess your risk factors:

• Age, especially as the skin changes after age 40. With age there is a reduction in muscle mass and skin firmness, resulting in less padding between bones and other surfaces.

• Multiple health problems (comorbid conditions) increase the risk of developing pressure ulcers. Those linked to pressure ulcers include heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease, poor nutrition, and frequent urinary tract infections.

• Level and completeness of your SCI could put you at greater risk for pressure ulcers. Issues such as the inability to check your skin or perform a weight shift on your own can increase the likelihood that you will develop a pressure ulcer.

• Inactivity. The less active you are, the greater the risk for pressure ulcers. Being physically active can, by itself, improve your overall health.

• Sweating. People with SCI may experience sweating without regulation due to damage or changes in the nervous system that control body temperature. The resulting moisture increases the risk of skin breakdown and infection unless otherwise prevented.

• Autonomic dysreflexia (AD) is a serious blood pressure problem for people with SCI who have an injury at or above T6 level. It is also a major risk factor for pressure ulcers and can be a life-threatening condition.

You can optimize prevention efforts if you are able to:

• Change positions

• Check your skin

• Keep skin clean and dry

• Choose appropriate clothing

• Exercise, maintain an appropriate weight

• Eat a well-balanced diet

• Drink plenty of fluids on a regular basis

Prevention tips can include, but are not limited to the following:

• Your state of mind, feelings and emotional state have a lot to do with your overall health, how you get along with others and how you take care of yourself. If negative feelings seem to be controlling your life long after you have left your rehabilitation program, ask for help.

• During your rehabilitation, you were encouraged to take responsibility for as much of your care as possible, and it is not uncommon to need reminders; ask for written instructions on the treatment program, then following the directions and recommendations.

• If you smoke, quit. Smoking impairs circulation, and anything that interferes with your circulatory system (the network that carries blood throughout your body) can affect your skin and put you at greater risk.

• People who use illegal drugs or alcohol are less likely to stick with a prevention routine.  Tell your health-care provider (or someone you trust) the variety, quantity and frequency of the drugs and alcohol you consume. Consider getting help to quit; your primary care physician can direct you to the appropriate resources.

• Talk to your health-care provider about your diet and what you can do to maintain your intake of calories, protein and vitamins. Your health-care provider may suggest vitamins or dietary supplements for your nutrition and immune system.

• Equipment wears out with age and daily use. Monitor the condition of your equipment; replace anything that is worn out, inadequate for your current needs or does not effectively support you and distribute your weight.

Information courtesy of the Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine Consumer Guides.

Go to www.scicpg.org to download a free copy of Pressure Ulcers: What You Should Know.

Read Part One

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