Wheelchair users are especially susceptible to wounds called “pressure ulcers,” which form when there is prolonged pressure between a person’s bones and skin. Each year, more than one million Americans develop these skin ulcers. The good news is that some of them may be preventable.
Some experts believe that more than half of wheelchair users will eventually develop a pressure sore. These wounds are not merely an inconvenience; they can result in serious complications for people confined to wheelchairs.
Pain is one of the most notable side effects of pressure ulcers. Though a pressure sore may take as few as two hours to form, the pain associated with it is often long-lasting. At an early stage, the pressure ulcer will appear as a red patch on the skin. Often it progresses into a deep opening in the skin and then penetrates through muscle and fat down to the bone.
With vigilance, you can prevent skin ulcers and keep pain, infection, and possible hospitalization at bay. Here are some tips:
- Take care of yourself by practicing good nutrition. You should eat a variety of food every day, including fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Always take your doctor’s advice when it comes to your diet.
- Drink lots of fluids during the day.
- Keep your skin clean from urine, stool, and perspiration. These materials can irritate the skin.
- Check out your skin every day. If you have trouble seeing a certain body part, use a mirror. Keep on the lookout for persistent red spots, especially on pressure points.
- Use a recommended body lotion to keep your skin from drying out.
- Shift your weight every 15 minutes and change your position every hour. Some wheelchair users may want to move to a different chair occasionally. If you can exercise or walk, make sure you do so.
John Drewniak, who uses a wheelchair, is vigilant when it comes to checking his skin for pressure ulcers. Ten years ago he suffered from a pressure ulcer that did not go away for months. Today he says, “I am very aware of what happened and I continue to be aware. I change positions often and check myself often, and I am aware of every change and red mark. It was a life-altering experience.”