What are Pressure ulcers/pressure sores/bed sores?

25th January 2021

Pressure ulcers, also known as pressure sores or bedsores, are localised injuries or damage to the skin and/or underlying tissue. Because of the broken skin allowing infection into the body, pressure ulcers can be dangerous and painful. If left untreated, pressure ulcers can expose the bone. The most common areas for pressure ulcers to develop are over bony prominences, such as at the heels, elbows, and the sacrum (located at the bottom of your spine). 

Did you know

Pressure ulcers/sores cost the NHS more than £3.8 million every day! 1

What causes Pressure ulcers/sores?

Pressure ulcers/sores can occur as a result of sustained pressure that restricts blood flow to a particular part of your body. The restriction of blood flow prevents vital nutrients and oxygen from getting to your skin tissue, which is necessary to keep your skin tissue healthy. Friction and Sheering can also lead to the development of Pressure ulcers; click here for more information about a number of intrinsic factors that can heighten the risk of pressure ulcers.

Early signs of a Pressure ulcer

There are a number of things to look out for:

  • Discolouration of an area of the skin – this is usually seen as a red patch on people with pale skin or a purple/blue patch on people with darker skin.
  • Discoloured areas that don’t go white when pressed1.
  • An area of skin that can feel spongy, hard, or warm1.
  • Painful or itchy skin in the affected area 3.
  • Blisters or damage to the skin 2.

Pressure sores/ulcers can develop in as quickly as 2 hours, in some instances. It is vitally important to detect pressure ulcers at an early stage with regular checks. Early identification of a pressure ulcer is crucial as it may prevent patients, residents, or loved ones from experiencing an even more painful wound.



  1. https://improvement.nhs.uk/documents/2932/NSTPP_summary__recommendations_2.pdf 1
  2. NHS (2017) Overview Pressure Ulcers (Online) 2
  3. NHS Improvement (2018) Stop the Pressure 3