Pressure sores

A pressure sore (bed sore) is an injury to the skin and/or the tissues under the skin, caused primarily by constant pressure. People confined to a bed or chair and unable to move are at greatest risk for developing pressure sores, which form most often in bony areas such as the hips, heels, or tailbone.

Pressure sores develop when constant pressure reduces blood supply to an area of skin and tissue. Oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood cannot reach the cells in the tissue, causing the cells to die. Pressure sores can range from mild reddening of the skin to severe tissue damage that extends into muscle and bone. These sores are difficult to treat and slow to heal.

For people who are confined to a bed or chair or are unable to move, changing positions frequently and distributing body weight evenly will relieve pressure on any one area of skin. Eating a balanced diet with adequate protein promotes healthy skin, as does keeping skin clean and free of body fluids or feces. Moisturizing dry skin with good-quality lotions will keep the skin from drying out and cracking, which makes it vulnerable to pressure sores.

Healing a pressure sore depends on relieving the pressure on the area. Treatment for pressure sores includes changing positions frequently to restore blood flow to the tissue and washing the sore daily. Unaffected tissue around the sore should be kept clean and dry to prevent further damage. Removing dead tissue and applying medicated ointments or creams will help reduce the risk of infection.

Last Updated: March 5, 2009

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Margaret Doucette, DO - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Wound Care, Hyperbaric Medicine

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