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Pressure sores

Pressure sores (sometimes called pressure ulcers or bed sores) are sores on the skin which appear when an area of skin has been put under pressure for a period of time. They can range in severity from patches of red and inflamed skin to deep open sores that expose the muscle and bone underneath.

Pressure sores can be painful and upsetting, and can be difficult to treat. In some cases they can lead to infections and other complications. They will often need a regular change of dressing, frequent applications of creams, and monitoring by a qualified nurse to ensure that they are dealt with as soon as possible.

Visit your GP if you think you might have sores of this kind, or any concern about your health.

Pressure sores are most common for the following people:

  • people who have health conditions that make it difficult to move, and who may be confined to bed or a chair for long periods of time
  • people who have conditions that affect blood flow, such as diabetes
  • people who experience problems with incontinence
  • older people, who are more likely to be affected because their skin is more thin and fragile.

The following tips will reduce the risk of developing pressure sores:

  • Think about ways to increase your ability to move around - have a look at our pages on Regaining your independenceHelp with walking and mobilityEquipment to help at home, and Gadgets to help you stay safe

  • Regularly change position and avoid sitting or lying in the same way for long periods of time (if you are unable to move yourself, ask your carer to help you change position)

  • Keep an eye out for the early signs of pressure sores, such as pain, numbness or red patches of skin

  • Use equipment to protect and support vulnerable parts of the body, such as specially designed mattresses and cushions

  • Keep the skin clean to reduce the risk of infections developing

  • If you experience problems with incontinence then try to keep your skin as clean and dry as possible, and change any incontinence pads regularly

  • Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet - this will keep your skin as strong as possible

If you think you have any of the symptoms described on this page then you should consult a doctor or nurse and seek appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

The Tissue Viability (Wound Management) Service

The CLCH Tissue Viability (Wound Management) Service support people in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea who have developed pressure sores, or are at risk of developing them.

They run a variety of wound care clinics in the community and also visit patients in their home, as well as patients in nursing and residential homes.

Referral to the service is usually via a doctor, nurse or other health professional, but never be afraid to ask your doctor if the service might be appropriate for you.

Last updated: 02/07/2021