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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Pressure Sores - Home Treatment

Most pressure sores develop when you or a person you are caring for is hospitalized or confined to a chair or bed. You can take steps to prevent pressure sores. After a pressure sore has developed, you can help prevent the sore from getting worse. To prevent or help heal pressure sores:

  • Minimize constant pressure, sliding across sheets or other surfaces, and slumping down in a chair or bed. You reduce the risk of pressure sores if all areas of the skin and tissue receive an adequate blood flow.
    • Avoid sliding, slipping, or slumping, or being in positions that put pressure directly on an existing pressure sore. Try to keep the head of a bed, a recliner chair, or a reclining wheelchair raised no more than 30 degrees. Recliner chairs are likely to allow slipping. They should not be used in place of a bed.
    • Use pressure-relieving devices or cushions if you or the person you care for is confined to a bed or chair.
    • Use sheepskin layers or foam alternatives on chairs and beds, which helps prevent new pressure sores in people older than age 18 at risk of developing pressure sores.1 If you want to try the special sheepskin or foam, talk to your doctor about where to buy it. These are special products for medical use, not the usual foam or sheepskin.
    • Frequently reposition yourself or the person you are caring for to help reduce the risk of developing new pressure sores or irritating current sores. Talk with your doctor about how often to change positions.
    • Talk with your doctor about pressure-relieving products that might help you. Some products, such as doughnut-type devices, may actually cause or aggravate pressure sores.
  • Keep yourself or the person you are caring for active, if possible.
  • Inspect skin daily, especially around bony areascamera.gif such as along the spine, at the lowest part of the back; around the hips, elbows, and knees; and at the back of the head and heels. Have someone else check the areas you can't see. When a pressure sore is forming, skin temperature is often warmer—but can be cooler—than the skin around it, and the skin can feel either firmer or softer than the surrounding skin.
  • Learn to recognize what pressure sorescamera.gif look like.
  • Keep skin clean and free of sweat, wound drainage, urine, and feces. Use a mild cleansing soap to keep skin healthy. Be careful not to scrub the skin too hard.
  • Moisturize skin with lotion, and limit exposure to dry, cold weather, because dry skin is more easily damaged.
  • Do not use cleansers made for healthy skin on open wounds. And avoid antiseptic solutions such as Betadine, Hibiclens, or hydrogen peroxide. These can damage new and normal tissue. Also avoid very strong soaps that may dry out the skin.
  • Do not wash with water from a well if you or the person you are caring for has an open wound. Most tap water is safe, but follow the advice of your doctor or nurse. In some cases, it may be okay for you to use tap water to cleanse a wound.
  • Provide good nutrition through a healthy diet with enough protein to keep skin healthy and able to heal more quickly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, without swings of gain or loss. Weight changes can lead to increased pressure on certain body areas or to problems with support equipment that no longer fits.
  • Watch for problems with clothing and accessories. Be sure your shoes aren't too loose or too tight. Avoid tight clothing, clothing with heavy seams, and nylon underwear.
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco smoke, which dries out the skin and reduces blood supply to the skin.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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