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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Pressure Sores - Treatment Overview


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:

  • Use 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.
  • Check 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.
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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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