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Preventing pressure ulcers

Decubitus ulcer prevention; Bedsore prevention; Pressure sores prevention

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Areas where bedsores occur

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Description

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.

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:

Talk to your provider if you have questions about pressure ulcers and how to prevent them.

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References

James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Dermatoses resulting from physical factors. In: James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 3.

Marston WA. Wound care. In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 115.

Qaseem A, Humphrey LL, Forciea MA, Starkey M, Denberg TD; Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians. Treatment of pressure ulcers: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(5):370-379. PMID: 25732279 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25732279.

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Review Date: 5/24/2018  

Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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