Pressure Sores - Topic Overview
What are pressure sores?
A pressure sore (bed
sore) is an injury to the skin and/or the tissues under the skin. Constant
pressure on an area of skin reduces blood supply to the area. Over time, it can
cause the skin to break down and form an open sore (ulcer).
Pressure sores are more likely to form if you or a person you are caring for is
in the hospital or is confined to a chair or bed.
most often form on the skin over
bony areas where there is little cushion between the bone and the skin. Most
pressure sores form on the lower part of the body, including over the tailbone
and on the back along the spine, on the buttocks, on the hips, and on the
heels. Other common spots are the back of the head; the backs of the ears; the
shoulders, elbows, and ankles; and between the knees where the legs rub
can range from red areas on the surface
of the skin to severe tissue damage that goes deep into muscle and bone. These
sores are hard to treat and slow to heal. Other problems, such as
bone, blood, and
skin infections, can develop when pressure sores do
not heal properly.
What causes pressure sores?
Things that cause
pressure sores include:
Constant pressure on the skin and tissues. This is by far the most common cause of pressure
- Sliding down in a bed or chair, forcing the skin to fold
over itself ("shear force").
- Being pulled across bed sheets or
other surfaces (friction burns).
- Irritation of the skin from things such as sweat, urine, or
As we get older, our skin gets more thin and dry and
less elastic, so it is easier to damage. Poor nutrition-common among older
people and people who cannot move easily-makes these natural changes in the
skin worse. Skin in this condition may easily develop
a pressure sore.
How are they treated?
Treatment focuses on
preventing a sore from getting worse and on making the skin healthy again.
- Relieving pressure on the area by changing positions often and
spreading body weight evenly with special mattresses or other
- Keeping the sore clean and covered, and not letting it dry
- Eating a healthy diet with enough protein to help the skin
- Keeping healthy tissue around a pressure sore clean and
- In most cases, removing dead tissue and applying medicated
ointments or creams to reduce the risk of infection. Only use medicines
prescribed by the doctor to treat pressure sores, and follow all instructions
If infection develops, the person will need
antibiotics. Severe pressure sores may need
How can you prevent pressure sores?