Bed Sores And How To Avoid Them

Date Added 19.04.16

Bed sores, also called pressure sores or ulcers, may be caused by pressure against the skin that stops the blood from flowing properly to the skin and surrounding tissue.  They can also be caused by poor personal care, such as incontinence wear which is not being changed regularly enough.

Bed sores can vary in severity from patches of discoloured skin to open wounds that expose the underlying muscle or bone. Having limited mobility, poor hydration and weight loss can make the skin more vulnerable to damage and lead to the development of bed sores. Those most likely to develop bed sores are people with long term illnesses that may make it hard to move around or result in long periods spent lying down. The primary contributing factors are:

Sustained pressure

When your skin and the underlying tissues are trapped between bone and a surface, like a bed or wheelchair, the pressure may be greater than the pressure of the blood flowing in the small vessels (capillaries) that deliver oxygen and other nutrients to tissues. Without these vital nutrients, skin cells and tissues are damaged. This pressure is more likely to affect areas of the body with less muscle or fat such as the spine, shoulder blades, tailbone, heels and elbows.


Friction happens when the skin is dragged across a surface, such as a carer moving a patient, or even the patient changing position themselves. This will be worse if the skin is moist.


Shear occurs when two surfaces move in the opposite direction. For example, when a hospital bed is tilted, a patient may slide down in bed. As the tailbone moves down, the skin over the bone may stay in place pulling in the opposite direction.

Poor personal care

If incontinence wear is not changed regularly and the area well cleaned with barrier creams applied if appropriate, then bed sores can develop.

Weight loss and Dehydration

When a person has lost a significant amount of weight or are dehydrated their skin is at a higher risk of developing bed sores.

An effective way of preventing bed sores, in someone with limited mobility, from happening is to regularly and frequently change positions.   If movement is difficult, a carer or relative will need to assist. To prevent bed sores caused by poor personal care incontinence needs should be adequately assessed, incontinence wear changed more regularly with the use of barrier creams if appropriate, as well as support with hydration and a good diet with enough protein and good variety of vitamins.  These steps will not only help prevent bed sores from occurring but will help the condition of the skin aiding the healing process.

If a person’s skin is showing signs of a bed sore developing a referral should be made for an assessment by a Tissue Viability Nurse who can give advice on how the sore can be treated and how future sores can be prevented.

Remember bed sores are preventable. If you have any queries regarding bed sores, would like a confidential chat about making a personal injury claim then call our dedicated welcome team now on 0333 414 9123.

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