Causes of Pressure Ulcers

Pressure ulcers are also called bed sores or pressure sores. They form when muscles and soft tissue press against a surface such as a bed or chair, which prevents blood supply to this area of the body. As a result of, skin tissue in this area begins to die and a pressure ulcer may form. Generally, pressure ulcers are usually caused by:

  • Continuous pressure – if there is pressure on the skin on one side, and bone on the other, the skin and underlying tissue may not receive an adequate blood supply. Oxygen and other key nutrients may be lacking, resulting in possible skin and tissue damage. Areas most susceptible are those which are not well padded with flesh and fat; areas just over a bone, such as the coccyx, shoulder blades, hips, heels, ankles, and elbows.
  • Friction – for healthy and mobile people making bodily adjustments and shifting around prevents the development of bed sores. However, for some patients, especially with thin and frail skin, as well as poor circulation, turning and moving may damage the skin, raising the risk of bed sores.
  • Shear – if the skin moves one way while the underlying bone moves in the opposite direction, this is known as shearing. When a patient slides down a bed or a chair, there is a risk of shearing – cells and minute blood vessels stretch and tear. The tailbone, especially if the skin is already very thin, is especially susceptible to bed sores from shearing.