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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Pressure Sores - Topic Overview

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How are pressure sores diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose a pressure sore by examining it.

In some cases, a doctor may want to do tests such as:

  • Blood tests to check for infection or to see if you are getting enough protein in your diet.
  • A skin and wound culture, to identify germs that may be infecting the skin or wound.
  • A skin biopsy, if the cause of a skin problem is unknown.

How are they treated?

Treatment focuses on preventing a sore from getting worse and on making the skin healthy again. These steps can help a pressure sore heal:

  • Take pressure off the area. Change positions often. Spread body weight evenly with special mattresses, pads, or other support.
  • Keep the sore clean and covered with a bandage. The doctor will tell you what type of bandage to use. You will probably be told to keep the wound a little moist and not let it dry out between bandage changes.
  • Keep the healthy tissue around a pressure sore clean and dry.
  • Eat a healthy diet with enough protein to help the skin heal.

To promote healing, your doctor may remove dead tissue from the wound. Bacteria can grow in dead tissue and cause infection. If you get an infection, you may need antibiotics.

Severe pressure sores may be treated with surgery. For example, a skin graft may be done to help new skin grow at the site of a sore.

How can you prevent pressure sores?

There are many things you can do to help prevent pressure sores if you're at risk. It's also important to use these steps to help an existing sore heal. If you can't do them yourself, ask a family member or friend for help.

Change position often

  • In a bed, change position every 2 hours. Learn how to move yourself so that you avoid folding and twisting your skin.
  • In a wheelchair or other type of chair, shift your weight every 15 minutes.
  • Try not to slide or slump across sheets in a chair or bed. Recliner chairs are likely to allow slipping, so do not sleep in a recliner.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 24, 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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