Pressure sores, sometimes called bed sores, are areas of damaged skin and tissue. They are also known as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers.
Pressure sores develop when the blood supply is cut off by pressure. This can often happen when you sit or lie in one position for too long, and so it mainly affects people who are inactive through poor mobility, illness or hospitalisation.
A bed sore may start off as a red area of skin that does not go away after a few hours. The skin may feel tender and can become painful and purple in colour. If the skin breaks then the sore can become open and get infected.
If left untreated the area of damage increases and it can even affect the muscle and bone under the skin.
Bed sores are usually found on the heels, ankles, hips, buttocks, back and shoulders. They are most likely to affect those with poor mobility who spend prolonged periods in bed or in a chair, particularly if they're unable to change their position.
Older people are more likely to develop pressure sores due to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Other factors are poor nutrition, anaemia, recurrent infection and poor circulation.
Preventing Bed Sores
There are a few things you can do to prevent pressure sores from forming:
Encourage the person to change position regularly, or physically help them to do so.
Invest in fabric products which help prevent bedsores by minimising dragging and rubbing and preventing dressings from getting knocked off.
Keep an eye on vulnerable areas such as ankles, hips, buttocks, back and shoulders. Early detection and intervention at the first of the signs of pressure sores will help ensure the problem doesn't get worse.
Keep skin clean and dry.
Promote a healthy, varied diet rich in vitamin C
Bed sores are uncomfortable and potentially serious but can be prevented or kept to a minimum with some careful monitoring and intervention.