Pressure ulcers are sores that form on areas of skin that are close to bone, such as ankles, elbows, and hips. These lesions form primarily from a person staying in one position for too long, so they are a specific concern for people that are bedridden or in a wheelchair.
The more advanced a pressure ulcer is, the harder it can be to treat, and the slower it will be to heal. Early identification of treatment of these types of wounds is essential. Pressure ulcers fall into distinct categories, or Stages:
- Stage I: the very beginning formation of a pressure ulcer, when the skin is red and painful to the touch, but the skin has not yet been broken.
- Stage II: an open sore has now formed, and often times the skin will blister as well, with the surrounding skin showing signs of irritation.
- Stage III: a crater forms in the skin, with clear signs of tissue damage beneath the surface of the skin.
- Stage IV: the crater continues to develop to the point that the open wound has caused damage to one or more major subsurface structures, such as muscles, tendons, or bones.
- Unstageable: these ulcers are completely covered over in dead, discolored skin that makes it difficult to visually determine what stage the underlying ulcer is in.
- Deep Tissue: an ulcer develops beneath the surface of the skin, directly in the muscle or other subcutaneous tissue; the area is usually identified by a purple or deep red discoloration, and can evolve into a Stage III or IV ulcer rapidly.
Contact a doctor immediately if you have: a bad smell coming from the wound; pus or other leakage from the wound; skin close to the wound that is warmer than normal or swollen; tenderness or pain around the wound; a fever that will not break.
Pressure sores can lead directly to serious infections, some of which can be life-threatening.
People with increased risk of suffering from pressure ulcers include the following: a person in a wheelchair; a person who is bedridden; an older adult; a person who cannot move one or more parts of his/her body without assistance; a person suffering from diabetes or other disease that affects blood flow; a person suffering from Alzheimer’s or other disease that affects mental state; a person who does not get proper nutrition; a person with fragile skin.
Stage I and II ulcers can heal quickly if cared for appropriately; Stage III and IV ulcers will require more time and attention to effectively heal. It is recommended that all ulcers be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible.