Pressure Sores



Prolonged pressure slows or blocks blood flow to the skin. This can cause damage to the skin. Some areas of skin will die and can cause serious illness.

Risk Factors

This condition is more common in older adults and those with:

  • Limited movement—such as using a wheelchair or being in bed for a long time
  • Problems feeling pain or discomfort
  • Low body weight
  • Swelling or water retention
  • Dry skin

Long term health issues that raise the risk of pressure injuries include:

  • Anemia
  • Infection
  • Incontinence
  • Poor circulation
  • Neuropathy
  • Dementia
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke



Symptoms of a pressure injury may include:

  • Warmth or swelling
  • Skin that looks red or purple
  • Pain or itching of the skin
  • Blistering, sores, skin breakdown, or drainage


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include:

  • Test of tissue and fluid from the wound
  • Blood tests
  • X-ray
  • Bone scan



The goal of treatment is to avoid further injury and heal the wound. The doctor can help create a treatment plan.

Proper care will let the wound heal. Steps may include:

  • Relieving pressure to the area. This can include changing positions and using support tools.
  • Special bandages to clean out and protect the wound. The wound and the area around it need cleaning regularly.
  • Medicine to prevent infection and help the tissue heal. It may be applied to the area or taken as pills.

Surgery may be needed for large wounds. The doctor can remove dead tissue to let the area heal faster. Skin can also be taken from another area of the body to help close large wounds.


To ease pressure on the skin:

  • Change position every:
    • 2 hours when in bed
    • 1 hour when in a wheelchair
  • Talk to the doctor about raising the head of the bed.
  • Do not sit or lay squarely on the hip.
  • Put a pillow under the calves of the legs or between the knees.
  • Talk to the doctor about special mattresses and cushions.

Wounds are less likely to happen in healthy skin. Steps for healthy skin include:

  • Check the skin daily for problems.
  • Keep the skin clean and dry.
  • Use creams to protect and moisturize the skin.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.