Your skin is the largest organ system in the body and protects the underlying cells against air, water, foreign substances and bacteria. It is sensitive to injury and has remarkable self-repair capabilities. However, prolonged pressure on the skin and the underlying tissue causes it to lose its quality. If the pressure is not relieved the skin can break down, producing a pressure sore.
People living with a spinal cord injury are at high risk of developing skin problems. Limited mobility coupled with impaired sensation can lead to pressure sores or ulcers, which can be a devastating complication. If not treated, pressure sores can ulcerate, leading to a medical emergency and prolonged hospital stay.
Pressure ulcers, also called bedsores, range in severity from mild (minor skin reddening) to severe (deep craters that can infect all the way to muscle and bone). Unrelieved pressure on the skin squeezes tiny blood vessels, which supply the skin with nutrients and oxygen. When skin is starved of blood for too long, tissue dies and a pressure ulcer forms.
Risk of pressure injuries can be reduced by checking your skin daily, using pressure-relieving mattresses and cushions, by shifting weight, or being turned if you cannot move independently.