A pressure ulcer is a breakdown of an area of skin and the tissue under it. It is caused by constant pressure on the skin. The ulcer can be small or it can get quite large and work its way under nearby areas of normal skin.
Pressure ulcers used to be called bedsores. They may also be called decubitus ulcers.
You may get pressure ulcers if you lie in bed or sit in a chair for long periods of time without changing positions. They may also be caused by rubbing or friction on the skin. Pressure ulcers happen most often on the tailbone, top of the pelvis, side of the hip joint, back of the heel, ankle, knee, and elbow. Constant pressure on the skin squeezes the tiny blood vessels that bring nutrients and oxygen to the skin. When an area of skin does not get enough nutrients and oxygen, the skin can die, and a pressure ulcer forms.
Pressure ulcers can happen to anyone with enough pressure for enough time. People with thin, frail skin have the most problems with pressure ulcers, so they need to pay attention to prevention. The thinner your skin is, the higher your risk is of developing sores.
The following risk factors increase your chance of getting pressure ulcers:
The symptoms develop in stages:
Your healthcare provider will examine your skin.
Treatment depends on how severe the sore is. Pressure ulcers need prompt and ongoing care in the early stages to try to prevent more damage and infection.
Here are some things to do if you have symptoms of an ulcer:
The worst sores may not heal at all. In some cases plastic surgery may be done to fill in the ulcer hole.
Call your healthcare provider right away if:
Pressure ulcers can take a long time to heal if they are completely through the skin. The rate at which the broken skin heals depends on your health, diet, and home care. It is best to try to prevent pressure ulcers.