What causes pressure sores?
Pressure sores (also known as pressure ulcers, bedsores or decubitus ulcers) are areas of damaged skin caused by pressure or friction. You may be at risk of pressure sores if your MS means that you have reduced mobility, poor nutrition or posture, neurological damage affecting the skin, or if you are obese or underweight.
Pressure sores develop when part of your body is compressed for a long period, and the blood supply to a region of your skin is cut off. If you usually remain seated, in a wheelchair, for example, you might develop pressure sores on the buttocks, back of the thighs or back. Pressure sores are most likely in places where your bones are near the skin, such as the pelvic bone in the buttocks.
Preventing Pressure Sores
1. Reduce the pressure
When possible alter your position, even slightly, every 20 minutes during the day. If you are seated this could take the form of rolling slightly from cheek to cheek in the chair. You could set a timer to remind you.
2. Appropriate equipment
Your MS Nurse, District Nurse or an Occupational Therapist can advise you on suitable equipment to reduce the risk of pressure sores. These include your bed, armchair, wheelchair, car seat, office chairs, cushions & mattresses, equipment when on holiday, hospital or away from home for any reason. Avoid any form of ring cushion as they can squeeze blood vessels in the skin and cause pressure damage.
Eat a well balanced diet, to ensure that you are not short of any essential nutrients. Even a short period of not eating well increases the risk of skin damage, particularly if you are unwell with flu for example.
4. Hygiene and skin care
Keep your skin clean and dry. Check for red areas on the skin once or twice a day. Reddened areas should fade within minutes when pressure is relieved. If they do not, seek advice from a district nurse.
Moving from wheelchair to chair or bed can cause pressure problems. Make sure you know how to transfer yourself (or the person you care for) safely, and that you are using lifting equipment correctly. Avoid sliding and pushing when this may result in friction on the skin.
Learn the correct positioning for your body, to improve your comfort and avoid pressure building up, particularly when seated. Our publications on posture may be useful.