Pressure sores (also known as bedsores) can be caused by pressure being applied on the same body area for a long time. This reduces blood flow to the area and can cause damage to the skin and the area under the tissue. Pressure sores are commonly seen at bony areas, such as the buttocks or heels.
At the early stage, an inflamed pressure sore would appear as a discoloured patch that is red, swollen, warm and painful. If the pressure sore is not treated, it can become a wound and this may lead to an infection.
Anyone can get a pressure sore, especially those who have difficulty moving or cannot change position easily while seated or in bed. The following factors will increase the risk of getting a pressure sore:
- Older age - more likely to have mobility problem and fragile skin
- Incontinence (unable to control passing of urine and stool) - skin becomes more at risk with increased exposure to urine and stool.
- Poor nutrition and hydration - Lack of fluid and nutrients such as vitamins and minerals prevents the body from recovering properly.
- Medical conditions affecting blood flow (for example in diabetes and peripheral arterial disease, where the vessels in the legs are narrowed) - wounds take a longer time to heal.
You should consider the following when you choose a wound dressing:
- Is the wound big or small?
- Is the wound dry or wet (is there any discharge?)
- Is there a risk for infection?
How to prevent pressure sores
Reduce pressure to the affected area
- Change positions every 15 minutes while sitting in the wheelchair or every 2 to 3 hours on the bed
- Use special mattresses filled with air or water
- Use specially designed cushions or padding to reduce the pressure
- Raise the head of the bed slightly, not more than 30 degrees, to reduce friction
- Avoid tight clothing
Maintain skin care
- Clean your skin with mild soap and warm water, then gently pat dry
- Check your skin every day to look for any damaged skin
- Change your diapers regularly if you are using it
- Apply barrier creams on the healthy skin if you are using diapers, urinary catheters or rectal tubes.
- Have a healthy and balanced diet that contains sufficient protein and a good variety of vitamins and minerals
- Drink enough water
- If you smoke, consider quitting
- Pus or drainage
- Bad-smelling pressure sore
- A change in skin colour, warmth or swelling around the sore.
Updated on 14 Jun 2023