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A pressure injury on the skin is caused by constant pressure to that area. 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 injuries are also called bed sores or pressure ulcers.
Pressure injuries 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.
Pressure injuries can be hard to treat and slow to heal. If they don't heal properly, they can lead to problems such as skin infection or bone infection.
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 injury is forming, take steps to treat it, and talk to your doctor or nurse about what more you can do.
Things that cause pressure injuries include:
Things that make a person more likely to get pressure injuries include:
A doctor can diagnose a pressure injury 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 injury 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 injuries 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 injuries 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.
Change position often
Take good care of your skin
Make healthy choices
Talk to your doctor about pressure-relieving cushions and pads
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.
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.
Qaseem A, et al. (2015). Risk assessment and prevention of pressure ulcers: A clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(5): 359-369. DOI: 10.7326/M14-1567. Accessed April 9, 2015.
Qaseem A, et al. (2015). Treatment of pressure ulcers: A clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(5): 370-379. DOI: 10.7326/M14-1568. Accessed April 9, 2015.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerMargaret M. Doucette, DO - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Wound Care, Hyperbaric Medicine
Current as ofNovember 21, 2017
Current as of:
November 21, 2017
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Margaret M. Doucette, DO - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Wound Care, Hyperbaric Medicine
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