From The MS Information Sourcebook, produced by the National MS Society.
Pressure sores, also called bed sores, pressure ulcers, or decubitus ulcers, occur when the skin breaks down from constant pressure, especially from sitting or lying in one position for any extended period of time. The pressure cuts off the blood supply to the underlying skin, fat, and muscle. These ulcers usually occur over bony prominences-tailbone, buttock, heel, shoulder blade, elbow, and occasionally the back of the head. However, pressure sores are not limited to these areas, and can occur other places as well. Sores my also develop from friction to the skin. This is called shear, and may result from sliding across a bed or wheelchair seat. Because the skin is much more likely to break down if it is moist or infected, incontinence of bowel or bladder can add to the problem.
Several interacting risk factors have been identified in the development of pressure sores:
Pressure sores begin as relatively benign problem, but can quickly progress to a more serious problem if left untreated.
The best way to treat a pressure sore is to avoid developing one in the first place. Pressure sores can be prevented in the following ways:
The treatment of pressure sores or decubitus ulcers becomes more difficult as the sore advances in severity. A Stage 1 ulcer is usually well managed by eliminating the source of the pressure. This should result in a rapid resolution of the early pressure sore. Stage 2 sores can be treated by medication and protective coverings, under the advice of a physician or would specialist who may be a nurse of physician. The treatment for a Stage 3 or 4 ulcer often involves long-term dressings, a special bed, medications, including antibiotics if there is insufficient healing, and perhaps even surgical intervention.
It is thus imperative to see your physician if you suspect that a pressure sore or decubitus ulcer has begun.
Holland NJ, Halper J (eds.). Multiple Sclerosis: A Self-Care Guide to Wellness (2nd ed.). New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2005.
Schapiro R. Managing the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (5th ed.). New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2007.
Last updated April 2006