A pressure injury to the skin is caused by constant pressure over a period of time. The constant pressure blocks the blood supply to the skin. This causes skin cells to die and creates a sore. Pressure injuries are also called bedsores.
Pressure injuries usually occur over bony areas, such as the hips, lower back, elbows, heels, and shoulders. Pressure injuries can also occur in places where the skin folds over on itself, or where medical equipment presses on the skin, such as when oxygen tubes press on the ears or cheeks.
Pressure injuries can range from red areas on the surface of the skin to severe tissue damage that goes deep into muscle and bone. Severe sores are hard to treat and slow to heal. When pressure injuries do not heal properly, problems such as bone, blood, and skin infections can develop.
Things that cause 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.
Relieving and spreading out pressure is the most important part of both preventing and treating pressure injuries. Putting pressure on one spot for long periods of time limits blood flow to that area. This damages or kills the cells and creates a sore. Pressure can be relieved and spread in several ways. Often a combination of these is best.
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 that a pressure injury is forming, take steps to treat it. Talk to your doctor or nurse about what more you can do.
Things that make a person more likely to get pressure injuries include:
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