Preventing pressure ulcers


Definition

Pressure ulcers are also called bedsores, or pressure sores. They can form when your skin and soft tissue press against a harder surface, such as a chair or bed, for a prolonged time. This pressure reduces blood supply to that area. Lack of blood supply can cause the skin tissue in this area to become damaged or die. When this happens, a pressure ulcer may form.

You have a risk of developing a pressure ulcer if you:

You will need to take steps to prevent these problems.

Alternative Names

Decubitus ulcer prevention; Bedsore prevention; Pressure sores prevention

Self-care

You, or your caregiver, need to check your body every day from head to toe. Pay special attention to the areas where pressure ulcers often form. These areas are the:

Call your health care provider if you see early signs of pressure ulcers. These signs are:

Treat your skin gently to help prevent pressure ulcers.

Eat enough calories and protein to stay healthy.

Drink plenty of water every day.

Make sure your clothes are not increasing your risk of developing pressure ulcers:

After urinating or having a bowel movement:

If you use a Wheelchair

Make sure your wheelchair is the right size for you.

Sit on a foam or gel seat cushion that fits your wheelchair. Natural sheepskin pads are also helpful to reduce pressure on the skin. DO NOT sit on a donut-shaped cushions.

You or your caregiver should shift your weight in your wheelchair every 15 to 20 minutes. This will take pressure off certain areas and maintain blood flow:

If you transfer yourself (move to or from your wheelchair), lift your body up with your arms. DO NOT drag yourself. If you are having trouble transferring into your wheelchair, ask a physical therapist to teach you the proper technique.

If your caregiver transfers you, make sure they know the proper way to move you.

When you are in bed

Use a foam mattress or one that is filled with gel or air. Place pads under your bottom to absorb wetness to help keep your skin dry.

Use a soft pillow or a piece of soft foam between parts of your body that press against each other or against your mattress.

When you are lying on your side, put a pillow or foam between your knees and ankles

When you are lying on your back, put a pillow or foam:

Other tips are:

When to Call the Doctor

Call your provider right away if:

References

Witkowski JA, Parish LC, Campbell C, Parish JL. Decubitus ulcers. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson I, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 52.


Review Date: 5/17/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com
 
A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.