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Decubitus Ulcers (Bed Sores)

A decubitus ulcer is an area of skin that breaks down when you stay in one position for too long without shifting your weight. Decubitus ulcers are also called "pressure ulcers" or "bed sores".

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.

Bed sores

 What causes decubitus ulcers?

These factors increase the risk for pressure ulcers:

What are the signs of decubitus ulcers?

Pressure sores are categorized by severity, from Stage I (earliest signs) to Stage IV (worst):

What is the proper treatment for a decubitus ulcer?

Once a pressure ulcer is identified, steps must be taken immediately:


How can pressure ulcers be prevented?

If bedridden or immobile with diabetes, circulation problems, incontinence, or mental disabilities, you should be checked for pressure sores every day. Look for reddened areas that, when pressed, do not turn white. Also look for blisters, sores, or craters. In addition, take the following steps:

When should I contact a medical professional?

Contact your health care provider if an area of the skin blisters or forms an open sore. Contact the provider immediately if there are any signs of an infection. An infection can spread to the rest of the body and cause serious problems. Signs of an infected ulcer include:

Reference: National institutes of Health