The Link Between Pressure Ulcers and Sepsis: 5 Things That Can Help
With September being Sepsis Awareness Month, we thought it would be fitting to talk about the link between pressure ulcers and sepsis. If you have a loved one in hospice in Santa Clara and elsewhere suffering from sepsis, we hope to provide some helpful information on this condition and its effects. According to Sepsis.org, pressure ulcers can result when the skin has been damaged due to pressure. More commonly known as bedsores, the top risk factors for developing a pressure ulcer include immobility, interruption of blood flow to the skin, and increased pressure on one portion of the skin.
These ulcers form when a person lies in bed for a long period of time without getting up or changing positions often. They can also form under the arms when using crutches too often, or even behind the ears where oxygen tubes are placed too tight. Any break in the skin could invite infection, such as cellulitis, osteomyelitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and even the flu, all of which can result in sepsis. Sepsis occurs when the body is trying to fight off infection, but it’s a potentially deadly medical emergency that requires fast action and treatment.
Sepsis kills 11 million people a year and disables millions more, according to the World Health Organization. One out of five will die from sepsis worldwide, and those who survive often experience life-changing effects, from chronic fatigue and pain to post-traumatic stress disorder and even amputations.
What can help?
Preventing Pressure Ulcers
The best way to prevent sepsis due to bedsores is to prevent those sores from occurring in the first place. Here are some ways you can reduce the prevalence of pressure ulcers.
1. Perform Regular Checks
Check your body on a daily basis, from head to toe, or have a caregiver do it. Concentrate on areas where pressure ulcers are more likely to form, such as:
- Back of the head
2. Get Medical Attention
Alert your health care provider or caregiving team if you spot these early signs:
- Localized areas of skin redness
- Warm areas
- Hard or spongy skin
- Breakdown of the skin or sore
3. Provide Proper Treatment
In the meantime, Medline Plus says you can treat any developing pressure ulcers by:
- Using a soft sponge or cloth when washing up. Don’t scrub hard; be gentle.
- Using moisturizing creams and skin protectants every day.
- Cleaning and thoroughly drying areas under the breasts and around the groin.
- Refraining from using talc powder or strong soaps.
- Not taking a bath or shower every day, which can dry out the skin.
- Drinking lots of water.
- Avoiding tight clothes with thick seams, buttons, or zippers that can press on the skin.
4. Make the Bed a More Comfortable Place
- Use a foam, gel, or air mattress, placing pads under your bottom to keep the skin dry and absorb wetness.
- Wedge a soft pillow between limbs that press against each other, such as your legs when laying on your side. When lying on your back, place these pillows under your heels, tailbone area, elbows, and shoulder blades.
- Refrain from putting pillows under your knees, which can put pressure on the heels.
- Don’t drag yourself out of bed, which can cause skin breakdown.
- Change positions every hour or two.
- Make sure all sheets and clothing are smooth and wrinkle-free.
- Keep the head of the bed under a 30-degree angle to prevent sliding.
5. Make Wheelchair Use More Comfortable
- Ensure the wheelchair’s size is right for your height and weight. Have the fit checked a couple of times a year, especially if you gain or lose a lot of weight.
- Sit on a gel seat cushion made of natural sheepskin to reduce pressure, rather than a donut-shaped cushion.
- Shift your weight every 15 minutes to take pressure off and maintain blood flow. You can do this by leaning from side to side.
- When transferring yourself, lift yourself up with your arms, rather than dragging yourself.
It’s important to call a healthcare provider or member of the caregiving team if sores, redness, or other changes in the skin develop, lasting for more than a few days. If those sores become warm, painful, or start draining pus, call the doctor.
Keep in mind that people who are at a higher risk for pressure ulcers include those with dementia, those who suffer from a chronic illness such as diabetes which compromises blood flow, and fragile skin that tends to tear easily.
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
Many of our hospice patients develop pressure ulcers due to sedentary living and can become vulnerable to sepsis. Our caregivers are skilled in spotting the signs of pressure ulcers so they can be treated right away. To learn more about what our staff can do when it comes to pressure ulcer prevention, contact us at 888-978-1306.