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How to care for pressure sores

Pressure ulcer - care; Bedsore - care; Decubitus ulcer - care

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Progression of a decubitis ulcer

Description

A pressure sore is an area of the skin that breaks down when something keeps rubbing or pressing against the skin.

Causes

Pressure sores occur when there is too much pressure on the skin for too long. This reduces blood flow to the area. Without enough blood, the skin can die and a sore may form.

You are more likely to get a pressure sore if you:

Symptoms

Pressure sores are grouped by the severity of symptoms. Stage I is the mildest stage. Stage IV is the worst.

There are two other types of pressure sores that don't fit into the stages.

Pressure sores tend to form where skin covers bony areas, such as your:

Caring for a Pressure Sore

Stage I or II sores will often heal if cared for carefully. Stage III and IV sores are harder to treat and may take a long time to heal. Here's how to care for a pressure sore at home.

Relieve the pressure on the area.

Care for the sore as directed by your provider. Keep the wound clean to prevent infection. Clean the sore every time you change a dressing.

Avoid further injury or friction.

Take care of your health.

Do not massage the skin near or on the ulcer. This can cause more damage. Do not use donut-shaped or ring-shaped cushions. They reduce blood flow to the area, which may cause sores.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your provider if you develop blisters or an open sore.

Call immediately if there are signs of infection, such as:

References

James WD, Elston DM Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Dermatoses resulting from physical factors. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 3.

Marston WA. Wound care. In: Cronenwett JL, Johnston KW, eds. In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford’s Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 115.

Qaseem A, Humphrey LL, Forciea MA, Starkey M, Denberg TD; Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians. Treatment of pressure ulcers: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(5):370-379. PMID: 25732279 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25732279/.

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Review Date: 5/30/2020  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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