What Causes Bed Sores?

A bedsore, or pressure ulcer, is damaged skin caused by improper blood flow to that area of the body, primarily because of pressure. These wounds can occur to a person of any age when they are essentially bedridden and cannot get out of their bed or wheelchair.


Lack of repositioning causes these pressure sores to form on different bony areas of the body like the tailbone, hips, heels, ankles, and elbows. However, it’s possible for pressure ulcers to form just about anywhere.

So, what is the cause of bed sores, and does negligence ever play a role? What causes bed sores in elderly nursing home residents? Our personal injury attorneys share what you need to know.

Our personal injury lawyers can help you if you were injured due to negligence. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Why Do People Develop Bed Sores?

Pressure ulcers are common in people who are paralyzed, hospitalized, or living in a long-term care facility. Some of the causes of bedsores1 include:

1. Pressure

Pressure is the most common of bed sores causes. Pressure on the body can come from a number of sources, including the patient’s bed, chair, or wheelchair. When the pressure reduces blood flow to the skin in those areas. it only takes a few hours for the skin to start to die, starting with the outer epidermis.

Healthy people that are mobile have the ability to reposition themselves when the pressure becomes uncomfortable, which prevents bedsores. However, individuals with mobility issues can easily develop these sores if they are not moved frequently. When bedsores are not treated properly, they can actually become life-threatening if an infection occurs.

2. Issues with Gravity


If a patient is propped up in their bed or in a wheelchair for long periods of time, gravity will step in and draw down tissue and muscle that is in the body. The surface the patient is on will keep the skin in place, creating a form of pressure that can lead to painful sores.

3. Friction

Friction bedsores occur when the skin is consistently rubbing against bedding or clothing. The outer layers of the skin will eventually wear off, leaving behind a dangerous sore that can become infected and spread quickly.

4. Excessive Moisture

Cleanliness is extremely important when a person is unable to move themselves to and from the bathroom. If long-term contact with urine, feces, or sweat takes place, this can result in bedsores that are very prone to becoming infected because of the bacteria that are present in the area.

Whatever the reason for bed sores, it’s crucial to get prompt treatment to prevent infections and more severe health issues.

What Are the Stages of a Bedsore?

Medical professionals have a method of categorizing pressure ulcers. Unfortunately, many patients cannot describe how the sore feels because of their lack of feeling in the area, communication ability due to dementia, or other health conditions. In fact, many people have severe bedsores and don’t recognize that they exist.

Properly diagnosing pressure sores and finding treatment can prevent dangerous health risks and progression from occurring. Here are the levels of severity of a bedsore:

  1. Stage I – The skin will appear pink but will still be intact. The area may feel firm and will seem to be a different temperature from the surrounding area.
  2. Stage II – In the second stage of a bedsore, there will be some degree of loss of skin. This can present itself in the form of blistering or abrasions. The sore itself is still shallow.
  3. Stage III – The skin is very much worn away by the time a sore has reached stage III. The wound is now in the deep layers of fat, though it’s not exposing any bone or underlying muscle.
  4. Stage IV – Skin has been worn away to the point of uncovering bones or muscles.

There are instances when it is difficult to determine if a wound is a bedsore because of discharge or scabbing. A deep tissue injury may also be present, affecting a proper diagnosis.

How Can You Prevent Bedsores?


Preventing pressure sores is part of standard healthcare practices, especially when a patient is unable to reposition themselves. To help prevent these types of wounds, a caregiver should:

  • Shift a patient’s weight frequently
  • Encourage some movement when possible, such as from the bed to a wheelchair
  • Use cushions or pillows to shift pressure points
  • Adjust the bed’s elevation often
  • Consider special wheelchairs made to help relieve pressure

Our attorneys will fight for the compensation you deserve after being seriously injured in an accident. Contact us now.

How Are Bedsores Treated?

Alleviating the pressure that originally caused the bedsore is the first part of proper treatment. At that point, the skin should be cleaned and kept very dry. Topical antibiotics are usually applied to the skin, though oral antibiotics are often used for more severe bedsores. In extreme cases, a surgeon can remove dead tissue from the sore, making way for new skin to form.

Medical staff should regularly change the wound, applying new dressing and ointments to treat infection and prevent the development of a new infection. Proper hydration and nutrition are also important components of healing.

Nursing Home Negligence or Medical Malpractice

If your loved one has suffered a bedsore injury because of hospital or nursing home negligence, reach out to Robert P. Schuster, P.C. The staff has dealt with a large number of complex litigation cases, many of which are related to bedsore injuries. We’re ready to hear your story so we can best advise you on how you should proceed. Contact us for a free initial consultation today.


Mayo Clinic. (19 April 2022). Bedsores (pressure ulcers). Retrieved 19 May 2022.