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Pressure ulcers: Just the facts

Pressure ulcers (sometimes known as bed sores or pressure sores) are wounds that occur when skin and tissue underneath are damaged You are more likely to get pressure ulcers if you have mobility issues.  

What do pressure ulcers look like?

Pressure ulcers are usually a patch of skin that changes colour. These patches can be red, white, purple or blue depending on your skin tone. This patch of skin may feel warm, spongy and/or hard. A pressure ulcer will not change colour if you press it and may be painful and/or itchy.  

What causes pressure ulcers? 

When pressure is put on a specific part of the body/skin for a long time it affects blood flow around that area.  

Some things that can encourage pressure ulcers include: 

  • pressure from a hard surface such as a bed or wheelchair 
  • pressure that is placed on the skin through muscle movements such as muscle spasms 
  • moisture which can break down the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) 

How quickly do pressure ulcers occur? 

While ulcers typically develop slowly, they can also occur within a few hours. How quickly someone gets a pressure ulcer depends on the amount of pressure being put onto the skin and/or how vulnerable a person’s skin is to damage. 

 Who can get pressure ulcers? 

Anyone can develop a pressure ulcer although certain factors may put you at higher risk of developing pressure ulcers. The more of these factors you have, the higher your risk. You are at higher risk of developing a pressure ulcer if: 

  • You have reduced or lack of mobility 
  • You are incontinent  
  • You have a poor diet  
  • You are overweight 
  • Your skin is dry, fragile, thin or previously damaged 
  • You have a long term health condition such as diabetes, renal disease, heart/circulatory and respiratory problems, stroke, multiple sclerosis, dementia, Huntington’s disease, profound multiple disabilities, paraplegia, organ failure, anaemia, peripheral vascular disease and/or a terminal illness 
  • You’ve recently had major surgery 
  • You take medication which thins the skin 
  • You have an acute injury that is affecting their mobility 
  • You wear ill-fitting footwear  

Click here to read Leicestershire Partnership Trusts ‘Keeping the pressure off – a guide about pressure awareness’ for more information on pressure ulcers.


How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively, you can always contact your school nurse. 

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