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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Pressure Sores - Topic Overview

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These steps can help keep skin healthy:

  • Prevent constant pressure on any part of the body.
    • Change positions and turn often. Learn the proper way to move yourself or a person you are caring for so that you avoid folding and twisting skin layers.
    • Spread body weight. Use pressure-relieving devices or cushions, especially if a person is confined to a bed or chair for any length of time. Pad metal parts of a wheelchair to help reduce pressure and friction.
    • Have someone check your skin after you have been sitting, sleeping, or resting in a recliner chair, wheelchair, or bed.
  • Eat a healthy diet with enough protein.
  • Keep the skin clean and free of body fluids or feces.
  • Use skin lotions to keep the skin from drying out and cracking, which makes the skin more likely to get pressure sores. Barrier lotions or creams have ingredients that can act as a shield to help protect the skin from moisture or irritation.

People at greatest risk for getting pressure sores are those who:

  • Are confined to a bed or chair, especially if it's because of a spinal injury.
  • Cannot move without help (as with paralysis, coma, or recovering from surgery or injury).
  • Have had a hip fracture. The risk for pressure sores continues even after coming home from the hospital or nursing home.
  • Cannot control their bladder or bowels. Excess moisture can irritate or soften skin and lead to pressure sores.
  • Are not eating a healthy diet with enough protein. Poor nutrition can lead to unhealthy skin and slow healing.
  • Are not as alert as normal due to other health problems, from taking certain medicines, or after surgery. People who are not alert and thinking clearly may not understand why preventing pressure sores is important. Or they may not be able to take the prevention steps that are needed.
  • Are older. As people age, the soft tissue becomes more fragile. Also, skin becomes thinner and less elastic, and injures more easily.
  • Are smokers. Smoking dries out the skin and reduces blood flow to the skin.
  • Have a fever. A higher body temperature puts extra stress on areas of the skin that may already be at risk for pressure sores.
  • Have another health problem that makes healing difficult, such as diabetes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about pressure sores:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

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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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