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Pressure sores in hospital
Grade 1 pressure sore in hospital

Causes of Pressure Sores


Pressure sores, otherwise known as bed sores, pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, can develop in potentially any patient when they spend too long lying or sitting in one position. They typically affect people who are confined to a bed or chair as the result of a debilitating illness and can be very painful for those who suffer from them.

Pressure sores are caused by:

Continuous pressure – When there is pressure on one side of the skin, and bone on the other side, the skin and tissue beneath it is at risk of not receiving a sufficient blood supply. As a result, oxygen and other important nutrients could be lacking, meaning that the skin and tissue could become damaged.

The areas most susceptible to damage are those that aren’t very fleshy, which acts as padding and a barrier to damage. These include areas over a bone, including the shoulder blades, coccyx (tailbone), hips, elbows, heels and ankles.

Small, seemingly harmless issues can potentially be a cause of pressure sores too. If a chair is slightly tilted, this could cause a patient to develop a pressure sore, as could wrinkles in bed sheets and clothing. Even sweating can be factor, moistening the skin and raising the risk of pressure sores.

Friction – Healthy, mobile people are able to make postural adjustments during the day without really realising it however, for some patients, movement is very difficult and this can put them at risk of developing pressure sores. For many patients, particularly those with very thin, frail skin and poor circulation, moving position and turning could damage the skin, increasing the risk of pressure sores.

Shear – Shear is a term used to describe a time when the skin moves one way and the underlying bone moves another. If a patient slips down a bed or chair, it puts them at risk of shearing. The cell walls and tiny blood vessels might stretch and tear and the tailbone is especially susceptible to this, particularly if the skin is already very thin.

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