Simple Pressure Injury

A pressure injury is a sore on the skin. Pressure injuries often form when blood circulation is impaired. Being bed- or wheelchair-bound can cause pressure that may lead to pressure injuries. Pressure injuries are generally round areas of red, swollen, thickened skin around a crater-like depression. They are often very slow to heal. If a pressure injury isn't properly treated, it may become infected. If the infection spreads, it can cause serious health issues.

Symptoms of a pressure injury include:

  • Reddish area on the skin

  • Skin color and texture changes

  • Swelling

  • Wound that isn't healing

  • Crater in the skin

  • Pain

  • Drainage or pus

Risk factors

There are many risk factors for pressure injuries. Some of these include:

  • Decreased blood flow to a part of the skin, vascular insufficiency

  • Trauma

  • Lack of movement of a part of the body for long periods of time

  • Infection

  • Poor hygiene

  • Varicose veins

  • Vitamin deficiency

  • Diabetes

Pressure injuries

Pressure injuries are a type of skin injury most commonly seen in people who are confined to bed or a wheelchair. They are caused by prolonged pressure to a spot on the skin. Pressure injuries usually occur on the back, buttocks, or backs or sides of the legs, arms, or feet (especially the heels).

Home care

You may be prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection. If this is the case, be sure to take all of the medicine, even if your symptoms get better. You may also be given medicines to help relieve pain. Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions when using these medicines.

General care

  • Care for the skin ulcer as instructed. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after caring for your wound.

  • Cover the ulcer with a clean, dry bandage. Remove and change the bandage as instructed. If the bandage becomes wet or dirty, change it as soon as possible.

  • Follow the doctor’s instructions about washing. You can shower, but don't soak the healing ulcer until the doctor says it’s OK.

  • Don't scratch, rub, or pick at the healing skin.

  • Check the area every day for signs of infection, such as increasing pain, redness, warmth, red streaking, swelling, or pus draining from the pressure injury.

  • When resting, raise the area where the pressure injury is above the level of the heart.

  • Don't smoke or drink alcohol, because these can delay wound healing.

  • If you are able, try to walk regularly. This can help with circulation.

  • Don't stand or sit in one position for long periods.

The following tips can help prevent future pressure injuries:

  • Know your risks for pressure injuries.

  • Keep the skin clean and dry.

  • Reposition frequently.

  • Use protective devices such as pillows, foam wedges, and heel protectors for the knees, ankles, and heels.

  • Don't stay in one spot.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by your healthcare provider

  • Signs of infection. These include increasing pain, warmth, redness, or pus draining from the pressure injury.

  • Bleeding from the pressure injury

  • Pain in or around the pressure injury that doesn't get better even with medicines

  • Increased swelling

  • Changes in skin color

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