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A pressure sore is an injury to the skin caused by constant pressure. This often occurs when a person lies in bed or sits in a chair for a long time. Pressure reduces blood supply to the skin. Over time, this can cause the skin to break down and form an open sore. Pressure sores are also called bed sores or pressure ulcers.
Pressure sores can range from red areas on the surface of the skin to severe tissue damage that goes deep into muscle and bone. They usually form over bony areas such as the hips, lower back, elbows, and heels. They may also occur in places where the skin folds over itself or where medical equipment puts pressure on the skin, such as where oxygen tubing presses on the ears or cheeks.
If you or someone you care for is not able to move much, it's important to prevent sores and to check the skin every day. If you think a pressure sore is forming, take steps to treat it, and talk to your doctor or nurse about what more you can do.
Things that cause pressure sores include:
Things that make a person more likely to get pressure sores include:
A doctor can diagnose a pressure sore by examining it.
In some cases, a doctor may want to do tests such as:
Treatment focuses on preventing a sore from getting worse and on making the skin healthy again. These steps can help a pressure sore heal:
To promote healing, your doctor may remove dead tissue from the wound. Bacteria can grow in dead tissue and cause infection. If you get an infection, you may need antibiotics.
Severe pressure sores may be treated with surgery. For example, a skin graft may be done to help new skin grow at the site of a sore.
There are many things you can do to help prevent pressure sores if you're at risk. It's also important to use these steps to help an existing sore heal. If you can't do them yourself, ask a family member or friend for help.
Learning about pressure sores:
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Other Works Consulted
- Baranoski S, et al. (2012). Wound treatment options. In S Baranoski, EA Ayello, eds., Wound Care Essentials: Practice Principles, 3rd ed., pp. 181–239. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
- European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel and National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (2009). Prevention and Treatment of Pressure Ulcers: Quick Reference Guide. Washington DC: National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel.
- Ho CH, Bogie K (2010). Pressure ulcers. In WR Frontera et al., eds., DeLisa's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Principles and Practice, 5th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1393–1409. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for refractory wounds (2010). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 52(1333): 19–20.
- Powers JG, et al. (2012). Decubitus (pressure) ulcers. In LA Goldsmith et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1121–1129. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Ratliff CR, et al. (2010). Guideline for Prevention and Management of Pressure Ulcers. Mount Laurel, NJ: Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society.
- Reddy M (2011). Pressure ulcers, search date June 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
- Reddy M, et al. (2006). Preventing pressure ulcers: A systematic review. JAMA, 296(8): 974–984.
- Reddy M, et al. (2008). Treatment of pressure ulcers: A systematic review. JAMA, 300(22): 2647–2662.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Margaret Doucette, DO - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Wound Care, Hyperbaric Medicine|
|Last Revised||July 24, 2013|
Last Revised: July 24, 2013
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