Understanding Pressure Sores: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Understanding Pressure Sores: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Understanding Pressure Sores

What Are Pressure Sores?

Pressure sores, also known as bedsores or pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue resulting from prolonged pressure on the skin. They commonly develop on skin covering bony areas such as the heels, ankles, hips, and tailbone.

Causes of Pressure Sores

Pressure sores occur due to sustained pressure that reduces blood flow to the skin. Other factors include friction from clothing or bedding and shear, which happens when the skin moves one way and the bone beneath it moves another. These sores are particularly common among individuals with limited mobility, such as those confined to a bed or wheelchair.

Risk Factors

Several factors increase the risk of developing pressure sores:

  • Immobility: Individuals who are bedridden or use a wheelchair.
  • Age: Older adults are more susceptible due to thinner skin.
  • Weight Loss: Decreased padding over bony areas.
  • Malnutrition and Dehydration: Poor nutrition and hydration affect skin health.
  • Medical Conditions: Conditions like diabetes and vascular disease can impair blood flow.


Pressure sores are classified into stages based on their severity:

  • Stage 1: Red, unbroken skin that doesn't blanch (turn white) when touched.
  • Stage 2: Partial-thickness skin loss with exposed dermis, appearing as a blister or open sore.
  • Stage 3: Full-thickness skin loss involving damage to or necrosis of subcutaneous tissue.
  • Stage 4: Full-thickness skin and tissue loss with exposed bone, muscle, or tendon.


Untreated pressure sores can lead to severe complications such as cellulitis, bone infections (osteomyelitis), and sepsis. They can also result in chronic wounds and require surgical intervention.


Preventing pressure sores involves a combination of strategies:

  • Regular Repositioning: Changing position frequently to relieve pressure.
  • Skin Care: Keeping skin clean and dry, and inspecting it daily for signs of sores.
  • Nutrition: Ensuring a balanced diet rich in fluids, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Support Surfaces: Using specialized mattresses, cushions, and pads to reduce pressure.


Treatment depends on the stage of the pressure sore:

  • Early Stages: Relieving pressure, cleaning the wound, and keeping the area dry.
  • Advanced Stages: May require debridement (removal of dead tissue), antibiotics for infection, and specialized dressings.


Pressure sores are a significant health concern, especially for individuals with limited mobility. Preventive measures and early intervention are crucial to managing and reducing the risk of these painful sores.

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