Preventing pressure ulcers 

As part of your treatment plan, your care team will discuss with you the best way to prevent pressure ulcers. This will be based on your individual circumstances.

However, you may find that the general advice outlined below is helpful.

Changing position

Making regular and frequent changes to your position is one of the most effective ways of preventing pressure ulcers. If a pressure ulcer has already developed, regularly changing position will help to avoid putting further pressure on it, and give the wound the best chance of healing.

As a general rule, wheelchair users will need to change their position at least once every 15 to 30 minutes. People who are confined to bed will need to change their position at least once every two hours.

Once you have developed a pressure ulcer, it's important that you minimise or avoid putting any further pressure on it to give the wound the best chance of healing.

If you are unable to change position yourself, a carer or relative will need to assist you. For more information and advice about positional changes, read about treating pressure ulcers.

Nutrition

Eating a healthy, balanced diet that contains an adequate amount of protein and a good variety of vitamins and minerals can help prevent skin damage and speed up the healing process. You may be referred to a dietitian so that a dietary plan can be drawn up for you.

If you currently have a reduced appetite due to a pre-existing health condition, the following advice may be useful:

  • Try eating smaller meals throughout the day, rather than two or three larger meals. Set a timetable for when you should eat, rather than waiting until you feel hungry. This should ensure that you receive the necessary nutrition.
  • Avoid drinking large amounts of fluids just before you are about to eat, as this will make you feel fuller than you actually are.
  • If you find swallowing difficult, try drinking specially made nutritional drinks or puréed foods and soups.
  • If you are a vegetarian, it's important to eat high-protein alternatives to meat. Cheese, yoghurt, peanut butter, custard, beans and nuts are all good sources of protein.

Read more information about diethealthy eating and vegetarian and vegan diets for more dietary information and advice.

Checking your skin

If you have known risk factors for pressure ulcers, it's important that you check your skin on a daily basis for any signs of pressure ulcers, such as discoloured areas of skin. This is particularly important if you have an underlying condition, such as nerve damage or diabetes, which may dampen or numb feelings of pain in certain parts of your body.

You can use a mirror to check the parts of your body that are difficult to see, such as your bottom and the heels of your feet. If you notice any damage, report it to your care team. If you are at home, contact your GP or community nurse. If you are in hospital or a nursing home, inform one of your nurses or carers.

Quit smoking

If you are a smoker, giving up is one of the most effective ways of preventing pressure ulcers. Smoking reduces the levels of oxygen in your blood. It also weakens your immune system, which increases your risk of developing pressure ulcers.

Read about quitting smoking for further information and advice about giving up smoking.

Page last reviewed: 10/09/2014

Next review due: 10/09/2016