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A pressure sore develops when the blood supply to an area of the body is blocked because there is excessive and prolonged pressure on it. As a result, the skin in that area starts to die, leading to an open crater-like area or ulcer in the skin. These areas on the skin can be called decubitus ulcers, pressure sores, pressure ulcers, or pressure injuries.
A person who stays in the same position for a long time, for example, someone who is bedridden or always in a chair or wheelchair puts pressure on the same places much of the time. This reduces the blood flow to these places, making them more likely to develop pressure sores. These areas can be made worse when sheets rub against them or the patient is roughly pulled up in the bed or chair.
Common places for pressure sores to develop are the hips, buttocks, heels, elbows, shoulders, ears, and back of the head.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Abrahm, JL. Skin problems. In A Physician’s Guide to Pain and Symptom Management in Cancer Patients. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press; 2014:472-474.
Bhattacharya S, Mishra RK. Pressure ulcers: Current understanding and newer modalities of treatment. Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery. 2015; 48(1):4–16.
Brant JM, Stringer LH. Wounds. In Brown CG, ed. A Guide to Oncology Symptom Management. 2nd ed. Pittsburgh, PA: Oncology Nursing Society; 2015:377-378.
Jaul E, Barron J, Rosenzweig JP, Menczel J. An overview of co-morbidities and the development of pressure ulcers among older adults. BMC Geriatrics. 2018; 18(1):305.
Sternal D, Wilczyński K, Szewieczek J. Pressure ulcers in palliative ward patients: hyponatremia and low blood pressure as indicators of risk. Clin Interventions in Aging. 2016; 12:37–44.
Last Revised: February 1, 2020
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