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Bed Sores Symptoms & Diagnosis


Symptoms of a pressure ulcer may include:

  • Skin tissue that feels firm or boggy
  • Local redness, warmth, tenderness, or swelling
  • Reddish or purplish skin discoloration, often over a bony area
  • Pain or itching of the skin
  • Blistering, sores, skin breakdown, or drainage

If the redness remains a half hour after the pressure has been removed, the skin will likely break down. The reddened area may blister and a shallow ulcer may develop. Fluid may drain. The wound can deepen and can extend through fat and muscle to the bone. The area may be painful. The wound can become infected, with redness, swelling, odor, pus, warmth, and fever. If untreated, the infection can progress to gangrene , a blood infection, or an infection of the bone beneath.


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. The doctor will examine the ulcer and note the location, shape, size, depth, stage, and any formation of pockets or cavities. Pressure sores are staged according to the depth and tissues that are involved.

Tests may include:

  • Wound culture—taking a sample of material from a sore to be tested for bacteria
  • Blood tests—to check for infection and nutritional status
  • X-ray or bone scan —if bone infection is suspected

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