Merck Manual

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Spotlight on Aging: Pressure Sores

Spotlight on Aging: Pressure Sores

Aging itself does not cause pressure sores. But it causes changes in tissues that make pressure sores more likely to develop. As people age, the outer layers of the skin thin. Many older people have less fat and muscle, which help absorb pressure. The number of blood vessels decreases, and blood vessels rupture more easily. All wounds, including pressure sores, heal more slowly.

Certain conditions make pressure sores more likely to develop in older people:

  • Being unable to move normally because of a disorder such as stroke

  • Having to stay in bed for a long time, for example, because of surgery

  • Being excessively sleepy (such people are less likely to change position or ask someone to reposition them)

  • Losing sensation because of nerve damage (such people do not feel discomfort or pain, which would prompt them to change positions)

  • Becoming less responsive to what is happening in and around them, including their own discomfort or pain, because of a disorder such as dementia

  • Having an impaired capacity for wound healing because of a disorder such as diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, or venous insufficiency