Bedsores: Causes and Precautions

From pressure to the friction, there are several causes of the bed sores. Here we have explained such causes along with the precautions to avoid the bed sores risk.

Bedsores: Causes and Precautions

Bed sores, also known as pressure ulcers, are the wounds or injuries caused by the prolonged pressure or friction on the skin. National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel defines bed sores as “localized injury to the skin and/or underlying tissue usually over a bony prominence, as a result of pressure, or pressure in combination with shear and/or friction.”

Bed sores have been categorized into four grades according to the degree of their severity.

It is the common condition which has affected nearly 3 million adults in the US.

There are many reasons which make your skin vulnerable to the bed sores. Pressure is one of the main causes as it restricts the blood flow to the skin and its surrounding tissues, increasing the chances of injury. Person with less mobility is also prone to the bed sores as he is bedridden or on the wheelchair for a long time.

Here we have explained these major causes of bedsores:

Sustained Pressure on the Skin

Pressure on the skin, whether from hard surfaces or involuntary muscle movements, makes your skin prone to the bed sores.

For example, your skin remains between bony surfaces like shoulder and hard surface of a bed and wheel chair. This trapping of skin creates a pressure that restricts blood flowing in the tiny vessels carrying oxygen and other nutrients to the tissues. In this condition, skin cells and tissues tend to be worn out or damaged.

The body parts having fewer cushions of the “muscles and fat” are prone to the pressure ulcers like tailbone, spine, shoulder blades, heels and hips.


Like pressure, friction also leaves your skin injured. This is because your skin is rubbed against other surfaces, especially hard parts of the bed or chair. In other words, when your skin slides on hard surface or vice versa in opposite direction, it causes tissue damage. Generally, your skin is wounded by friction while you are shifting from stretcher to the bed. Friction affects the motion and damages your skin at great extent if it is moist or wet.

Shearing Forces:

Shearing forces injure your tissues and blood vessels, making you prone to the bedsores. For example, changes in the elevation of your bed can make slide through the tailbone in the opposite direction.

What Risks Lead to Bed Sores?

There are many factors that increase the chances of pressure ulcers:

  • Mobility problems 
  • Poor nutrition
  • Underlying health condition disrupting your blood supply or making your skin prone to injuries and damages
  • Being over 70 years old
  • Urinary problems or bowel incontinence
  • Mental health conditions like schizophrenia where people are not able to telling the difference between reality and imagination.
  • Serious mental health conditions

How to Prevent Bedsores?

The mild symptoms of bedsores can be treated with topical ointments at home. Apart from that, you must reposition yourself and take care of your mobility if you are lying on the bed or wheelchair for a long time.

Here are the things you must do to reduce the risk of pressure sores:

  • Change your position very often while being on the bed or wheelchair for a long time. You can turn your side after lying on your back for a while on the bed. Ask for assistance if you are not able to do it yourself. Shift your weight, and use a cushion while sitting on the wheelchair.
  • Clean and dry your skin with mild soap and warm water. Ask your caregiver to clean the parts where your hand can’t reach easily.
  • Pillows protect your skin from developing bed sores as they resist the friction while resting on the hard surfaces. Always keep the pillow between your knees and ankles if you are lying on your side.
  • Perform few ranges of motion exercises while lying on the bed to increase your mobility. For example, you can lift your arm as high as you can for 15-20 seconds.

Use topical medications for the mild symptoms of bed sores. Consult your doctor if the wounds are severe.

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