What Is It?
Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, are areas of broken skin that can develop in people who:
Bedsores are common in people in hospitals and nursing homes and in people being cared for at home. Bedsores form where the weight of the person's body presses the skin against the firm surface of the bed.
In people confined to bed, bedsores are most common over the hip, spine, lower back, tailbone, shoulder blades, elbows and heels. In people who use a wheelchair, bedsores tend to occur on the buttocks and bottoms of the feet.
This pressure temporarily cuts off the skin's blood supply. This injures skin cells. Unless the pressure is relieved and blood flows to the skin again, the skin soon begins to show signs of injury.
The pressure that causes bedsores does not have to be very intense. Normally, our skin is protected from being injured by pressure because we move frequently, even when asleep.
At first, there may be only a patch of redness. If this red patch is not protected from additional pressure, the redness can form blisters or open sores (ulcers). In severe cases, damage may extend through the skin and create a deep crater that exposes muscle or bone.
Muscle is even more prone to severe injury from pressure than skin. A bedsore can involve several layers of damaged tissue.
Although pressure on the skin is the main cause of bedsores, other factors often contribute to the problem. These include:
Bedsores can lead to severe medical complications, including bone and blood infections.
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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.
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