Skin ulcers that develop in pressure spots, affecting people with limited mobility
If people are paralysed or immobile, even for a few hours, small areas of their skin are subject to constant pressure from their own body weight. This pressure may restrict the normal supply of blood to the tissues. Sometimes, an area of tissue dies, leading to open sores, called pressure sores or bedsores. These usually affect elderly people, who are more likely to be immobile and have fragile skin. Urinary incontinence may contribute to the development of pressure sores if it causes the skin to be continually damp.
Common sites for pressure sores are the shoulders, hips, base of the spine, buttocks, heels, and ankles. The symptoms appear in the following stages:
Affected areas of skin start to become red and tender.
Painful areas become purple.
The skin breaks down to form ulcers.
Left untreated, the sores become bigger and deeper and may become infected. Severe pressure sores may sometimes involve muscle, tendon, or bone under the damaged area of skin.
Bedridden people or those with limited mobility should have their skin checked regularly for signs of redness and tenderness. A bedridden person should have his or her position changed at least every 2 hours to relieve compression of the affected areas. It is important to keep the skin clean and dry. If a sore becomes infected, antibiotics may be necessary. Usually, pressure sores gradually heal with treatment and good nutrition to improve the person’s general health, but deep ulcers may take several months to clear up. If they are extensive, plastic surgery may be necessary to promote healing.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.