People are at risk of developing pressure sores if they have difficulty moving and are unable to easily change position while seated or in bed. Immobility may be due to:

  • Generally poor health or weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Injury or illness that requires bed rest or wheelchair use
  • Recovery after surgery
  • Sedation
  • Coma

Other factors that increase the risk of pressure sores include:

  • Age. The skin of older adults is generally more fragile, thinner, less elastic and drier than the skin of younger adults. Also, older adults usually produce new skin cells more slowly. These factors make skin vulnerable to damage.
  • Lack of sensory perception. Spinal cord injuries, neurological disorders and other conditions can result in a loss of sensation. An inability to feel pain or discomfort can result in not being aware of bedsores or the need to change position.
  • Weight loss. Weight loss is common during prolonged illnesses, and muscle atrophy and wasting are common in people with paralysis. The loss of fat and muscle results in less cushioning between bones and a bed or a wheelchair.
  • Poor nutrition and hydration. People need enough fluids, calories, protein, vitamins and minerals in their daily diet to maintain healthy skin and prevent the breakdown of tissues.
  • Excess moisture or dryness. Skin that is moist from sweat or lack of bladder control is more likely to be injured and increases the friction between the skin and clothing or bedding. Very dry skin increases friction as well.
  • Bowel incontinence. Bacteria from fecal matter can cause serious local infections and lead to life-threatening infections affecting the whole body.
  • Medical conditions affecting blood flow. Health problems that can affect blood flow, such as diabetes and vascular disease, increase the risk of tissue damage.
  • Smoking. Smoking reduces blood flow and limits the amount of oxygen in the blood. Smokers tend to develop more-severe wounds, and their wounds heal more slowly.
  • Limited alertness. People whose mental awareness is lessened by disease, trauma or medications may be unable to take the actions needed to prevent or care for pressure sores.
  • Muscle spasms. People who have frequent muscle spasms or other involuntary muscle movement may be at increased risk of pressure sores from frequent friction and shearing.
Dec. 13, 2014

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