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Decubitus Ulcer

Definition

A pressure ulcer is an area of skin that breaks down when you stay in one position for too long without shifting your weight. This often happens if you use a wheelchair or you are bedridden, even for a short period of time (for example, after surgery or an injury). The constant pressure against the skin reduces the blood supply to that area, and the affected tissue dies.

A pressure ulcer starts as reddened skin but gets progressively worse, forming a blister, then an open sore, and finally a crater. The most common places for pressure ulcers are over bony prominences (bones close to the skin) like the elbow, heels, hips, ankles, shoulders, back, and the back of the head.

Symptoms

Pressure sores are categorized by severity, from Stage I (earliest signs) to Stage IV (worst):
  • Stage I: A reddened area on the skin that, when pressed, is "nonblanchable" (does not turn white). This indicates that a pressure ulcer is starting to develop.
  • Stage II: The skin blisters or forms an open sore. The area around the sore may be red and irritated.
  • Stage III: The skin breakdown now looks like a crater where there is damage to the tissue below the skin.
  • Stage IV: The pressure ulcer has become so deep that there is damage to the muscle and bone, and sometimes tendons and joints.
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