Pressure Sores - Treatment Overview
Treatment focuses on preventing
pressure sores from getting worse and on restoring
Steps to treat pressure sores include:
- Managing the tissue load. Tissue load includes
pressure, shear (such as when you slide down in a chair and your skin pulls and
folds), and friction (rubbing). All of these forces
can damage your skin and deeper tissues.
- Keeping the sore area
clean and covered, and not letting it dry out.
- Keeping healthy
tissue around the sore clean and protecting it from
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Avoiding smoking.
Smoking dries out the skin and reduces blood supply to the skin, so it can help
pressure sores form and also slow the healing process.
Early treatment can help prevent damage from
pressure sores. After a sore progresses to a more serious
stage, it becomes hard to treat and can lead to
Most stage 1 and stage 2
pressure sores will heal within several weeks with proper treatment. Stage 3 and 4 pressure sores can take months or even years to
heal. Even though progress is slow, continued care and treatment can prevent
complications such as further tissue damage, infection, and pain.
Pressure sores occur most frequently in people who are confined to beds
or chairs. In many cases, a person with a pressure sore also has one or more
medical conditions that may affect treatment and
healing. These conditions include
diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease.
Manage tissue load
Relieving and spreading out
pressure is the most important part of preventing and treating pressure sores.
When pressure is in one spot for long periods of time, the blood flow to that
area is decreased. This damages or kills the cells, and creates a sore.
Pressure can be relieved and spread in several ways. Often a combination of
these is best. To relieve and spread pressure:
special support surfaces. There are mattresses, bed
covers, and chair cushions designed to help reduce and spread pressure. Other
products, such as doughnut-type devices, may actually cause pressure sores. So
talk with your doctor about the support surfaces and pressure-relieving
products that would be best for you.
- Change positions at least every 2 hours if you are confined to
a bed, or as often as every 15 minutes if you are in a wheelchair. A person who
can't easily move themselves or who does not have normal feeling in their body
or mental awareness to tell them when to change positions is at risk of
pressure sores. These people need a regular schedule for position changes and
usually need help being turned or repositioned.
- 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.
the person's skin from head to toe daily, or as often as your doctor
recommends. Watch for pressure from many sources, such as:
- Body parts or skin folds, especially in
people who are overweight or obese. For example, the knees or ankles of a
person who spends long periods in bed can rub together and cause sores. Work
with your doctor to be sure there is either no pressure or that there is good
padding between the skin and other surfaces.
- Chair arms, parts of
wheelchairs, braces, or other places where people may rest their elbows or
other body parts.
- Oxygen masks or oxygen tubing. Tubing or straps
that rest on the nose or ears may cause pressure injuries.