Pressure Injuries: Care Instructions

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Early-stage and late-stage pressure injuries


A pressure injury on the skin is caused by constant pressure to that area. The pressure damages the skin and underlying tissues, creating an injury. This can happen when you lie in bed or sit in a wheelchair for a long time. And it can happen much more quickly when the health of your skin is affected by problems like poor nutrition or a disease that affects your blood circulation.

Pressure injuries usually occur over bony areas, such as your sit bones, hips, lower back, elbows, heels, and shoulders. They also can occur in places where the skin folds over on itself. You may have mild redness or open wounds that are harder to heal.

Good care at home can help heal pressure injuries. This includes keeping pressure off the area and following your doctor's instructions on caring for your injury. Eating a healthy diet with enough protein can also help with healing.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Change positions often. For example, change positions about every 2 hours when lying down and every 15 to 30 minutes while sitting. Try setting a timer to remind yourself.
  • If your doctor prescribed a medicated ointment or cream, use it exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Wash pressure injuries every day, or as often as your doctor recommends. Most tap water is safe, but follow the advice of your doctor or nurse. They may recommend that you use a saline solution. This is a salt and water solution that you can buy over the counter.
  • Put on bandages as your doctor or wound care specialist says.
  • Keep healthy tissue around the sore clean and dry.
  • Check your skin every day for sores (or have a caregiver do it).
  • If you know what caused the injury, find a way to remove that pressure.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the sore.
    • Pus draining from the sore.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your pressure injuries are not healing.
  • You have new pressure injuries.
  • You need help changing positions in bed or in a chair.
  • Your caregiver needs help to move you.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.