It is an extremely serious condition in advanced stages so seeking timely treatment for bedsores on elbow is vital. Pressure sores are said to develop on the elbows when they are subjected to prolonged pressure for an extended span of time.

The skin on the elbows can become infected with bedsores when the tissues under the skin do not receive adequate blood supply, resulting in a breakdown of the blood vessels and tissues.

A person who spends a large part of the day in a wheelchair or spends a great deal of time in bed is more likely to develop elbow bedsores. Because these pressure injuries are caused by the elbow skin being pressed against bones and surfaces like the backrest of a wheelchair or a mattress.

Several hours of no movement in ailing and immobile patients is enough to cause pressure injuries to develop on the elbows within a short period.

Without treatment, the sores may become infected and result in secondary complications that can be potentially life-threatening.

bedsores on elbow

Symptoms of Bedsore on Elbow

Pressure sores on the elbow usually look red, blue, or purplish in color in terms of appearance. If you touch the affected area, you will not see the skin blanching or whitening, and the condition will worsen over time. If these patches persist, they may turn into blisters or open sores as soon as they appear.

In the course of the healing process, wounds can become infected and therefore deepen until they reach the muscles, bones, and joints to continue healing.
Generally, pressure injuries occur on bony areas of the body that generally lack the protective fatty layer. Along with the elbows, other areas of the body can also be affected, including the heels, hips, ankles, buttocks, and shoulders.

You may notice that the affected area of the elbow feels warm, smells foul, and appears swollen. If the infection spreads into the bloodstream, there may be symptoms such as fever, chills, and confusion.

There is a possibility of life-threatening pressure injuries in the direst cases. So, reaching out to an experienced healthcare professional as soon as you observe any signs of pressure injuries is essential. These usually manifest as a soft, red patch of skin that remains red for at least 30 minutes after the pressure has been released.

You can also call a nurse or another healthcare provider if a patch of dark skin becomes darker or warmer to the touch.

Causes of Bedsore on Elbow

When the skin on the elbows is subjected to excessive pressure, it cuts off blood supply to that area, which in turn leads to the development of bedsores on elbow. Since you do not move, it is more prone to getting damaged, which makes bed sores a potentially higher risk of developing as well.

The following are three factors that contribute to the development of bedsores on elbows:

  • Pressure

Prolonged pressure applied to the elbows can reduce blood flow to the underlying tissues. Oxygen and nutrients are carried to the tissues through the blood. In the absence of these nutrients, the skin and nearby tissues experience degeneration, resulting in death.

It is common for people with limited mobility to experience this kind of excess pressure in areas where there is little fat or muscle padding. This makes our elbows highly susceptible to developing bedsores if not properly taken care of.

  • Friction

Continuous friction between the elbow skin and clothing or bedding occurs when the skin keeps rubbing against it. A moist environment can also make fragile skin more susceptible to injury because it is more prone to tearing.

  • Shear

Shear occurs when two surfaces move in opposite directions at the same time. Bedsores on the elbows are very often caused due to shearing forces.

Early stages of elbow bedsores

The severity of the elbow bedsores determines their stage, and each stage has its unique characteristics.

Stage 1

The early stages of pressure sores on elbows are usually easily manageable. But if you touch the affected area, you may feel warmth and redness there. If the skin is darker, the area might appear blue or purple when you touch it. Furthermore, some people may experience discomfort due to burns, pains, or itches caused, which may cause them extreme discomfort.

Stage 2

The second stage of elbow bedsores is typically characterized by blisters, sores, or scrapes. These are often observed to appear in those areas around the elbow where the skin seems to have been damaged more severely than others. If you have a wound that hurts much, or if the skin around it looks discolored, you might experience much pain.

 Late Stages: When to see a doctor?

Stage 3

The third stage can be distinguished by the appearance of craters within the elbow skin because of damage that has occurred beneath the surface. By the time a sore has progressed to the third stage, the top two layers of the skin have been already thoroughly penetrated, and the fatty tissue has been breached.

Stage 4

The fourth stage of pressure sores on elbow is the most serious. Your muscles, tendons, and ligaments are affected by then and the bedsores start extending below the subcutaneous fat layer and may even extend down to the cartilage or bone if they are very severe. This stage of the process is associated with a high risk of secondary infections.

The wound cannot be classified as a stage if there is full-thickness tissue loss, slough, or eschar in the wound bed, and the wounds on the elbows are covered with full-thickness tissue loss. It is possible to observe slough in colors, ranging from tan to grey, green to brown, and yellow in color. The most common shades of eschar are tan, brown, and black.

e directions at the same time. Bedsores on the elbows are very often caused due to shearing forces.

Treatment For Bed Sores

Depending on their severity, there are options for treatment for bedsores on elbow to help alleviate pain and discomfort. Some people think they are just an inconvenience and only require basic nursing care, but bedsores can be far more serious. It can be possible that they develop serious complications, such as blood poisoning, and prove fatal.

There are certain methods for treating pressure ulcers on the elbows and preventing them from progressing further:

  • The application of dressings that will speed up the healing process and provide pressure relief may be beneficial
  • Make frequent movements and changes in the position of the elbows
  • The use of static foam mattresses and cushions or dynamic mattresses and cushions with air pumps ensures a constant flow of air thereby properly distributing body weight across the major pressure points
  • Specially designed suspension pads can help protect elbows from frictional damage
  • Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Absorbing and removing damaged tissue from a wound (the process is called debridement).
  • Surgical intervention may be required in the most severe cases to remove damaged tissue and close the wound.


Bedsores on elbows are a result of extreme and continued pressure that damages blood flow to finally cause damage to the tissues. Depending on the extent of the damage to the tissues, bedsores can be of four different stages.

Those with limited mobility, the elderly, and those bedridden because of illnesses are more likely to experience elbow bedsores because of reduced mobility. Although pressure ulcers are treatable, they may result in serious complications, infections, and even amputation in the worst cases. Failure to detect and treat these promptly can cause the healing process to take years. So, it is vital to seek professional medical guidance if you experience symptoms, including skin changes and pain.

Disclaimer: Content provided on this website is for information purposes only, and should not be treated as professional medical advice. In case of any health concerns, you should get in touch with a registered medical practitioner.