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What Are Pressure Sores? (Ulcers)

Pressure sores—also called pressure ulcers or bed sores—happen when pressure on the skin cuts off the blood supply. This causes the skin and the tissue below the skin to break down. Pressure sores usually occur when a person lies or sits one way for too long. They can be painful and slow to heal. But you can do many things to help prevent pressure sores.

When to call the doctor

Call the doctor or home health nurse at the first sign of any of the following:

  • Redness that doesn’t go away after the source of pressure is removed

  • Cracked, blistered, or broken skin

  • Red, shiny skin that is painful or warm to the touch, or that feels spongy or hard

  • Skin that lacks sensation

Who’s at risk

Anyone who can’t move about freely is at risk for pressure sores. The biggest risk factors are:

  • Being confined to a bed or wheelchair

  • Being unable to change positions without help from someone else

Skin irritation from loss of bladder or bowel control adds to the above risks.


Your role

Your role is to prevent pressure sores from forming. That means you need to:

  • Change positions often.

  • Support the body.

  • Avoid rubbing and sliding.

  • Keep the skin clean.

  • Provide a good diet and enough movement.

  • Check the skin twice a day for signs of breakdown.

Where pressure sores occur

Pressure sores form where bone presses the skin against the bed or chair. This is most likely to happen in places where there is less padding between the skin and the bone—such as on the head and feet and around joints like the shoulder, hip, and knee.




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