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What Are Pressure Sores? (Pressure Ulcers)

Pressure sores (pressure ulcers or bed sores) happen when pressure on your skin cuts off your blood supply. This usually happens in areas where your bones are closer to the surface (bony prominences). This makes your skin and the tissue below your skin break down. Pressure sores often happen if you lie or sit in one position for too long. They can be painful and heal slowly. But you can do many things to help stop pressure sores.

Who’s at risk

Anyone who can’t move around on their own is at risk for pressure sores. The biggest risk factors are:

  • Staying in a bed or wheelchair

  • Not being able to change positions without help from someone else

Other risk factors include:

  • Skin irritation from loss of bladder or bowel control

  • Poor nutrition

  • Vascular disease

  • Smoking

  • Diabetes

Your role

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

  • Change positions often

  • Support your body by using cushions or pillows

  • Avoid rubbing and sliding

  • Keep your skin clean and dry

  • Eat a healthy diet and get enough movement

  • Check your skin twice a day for signs of breakdown

Where pressure sores occur

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

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When to call your provider

Call your healthcare provider when you first see any of the following:

  • Redness that doesn’t go away after the pressure source 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 has lost feeling (sensation)

 

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