Is a Decubitis Ulcer?
A decubitus ulcer, also known as a pressure ulcer, pressure
sore, or bed sore, is an open wound on your skin. Decubitis ulcers often occur
on the skin covering bony areas. The most common places for a decubitis ulcer
This condition is common among:
- elderly people
- disabled people
- people who spend long periods in bed or a
- people who can’t move certain body parts without
- people with fragile skin
The condition is highly treatable and recovery is good with
of Decubitus Ulcers
Decubitus ulcers occur in stages. The National
Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) has a staging process to help your doctor
diagnose and treat you:
The skin isn’t broken, but it’s discolored. The area may
appear red if you have a light complexion. The discoloration may vary from blue
to purple if you have a dark complexion. It may appear white.
The skin is open and shows signs of some tissue death around
the wound. The ulcer is shallow with a red pink wound bed. There might also be
a blister filled with fluid.
The ulcer is much deeper within the skin. It affects your
fat layer and looks like a crater. There also might be something that looks
like pus in the sore.
Many layers are affected in this stage, including your
muscle and bone. A dark substance called “eschar” may be inside the sore.
The ulcer may be yellow or green. It can be soft and look
like pus, or it can have a brown scab covering. If the damage to your tissue
layers is extensive, it will need to be removed. However, if the covering of
the ulcer is dry and stable, it shouldn’t be removed because it’s your body’s
natural layer of protection.
Causes a Decubitus Ulcer?
Pressure is one of the main causes of a decubitus ulcer.
Lying on a certain part of your body for long periods may cause your skin to
break down. Your skin is thinner in places next to bone or cartilage, and your
hips, heels, and tailbone are especially vulnerable to pressure sores.
Decubitus ulcers can also happen when you scrape or
rub your skin against a hard or rough surface. Friction burns on the skin may
damage the outermost layer of skin cells, called the “epidermis.”
Wearing soiled clothing or undergarments for long periods
may create open sores on the skin. This may irritate the delicate outer skin layer.
Is at Risk for a Decubitus Ulcer?
There are a number of risk factors for decubitus ulcers:
- You may be at risk if you can’t move or change
positions by yourself while lying in bed or sitting in a wheelchair.
- Your skin may be more fragile and delicate if
you’re an older adult, which can put you at increased risk.
- Poor eating habits or not getting enough
nutrients in your diet may influence the condition of your skin, which can
increase your risk. This includes not drinking enough water to keep your skin
hydrated and to prevent dryness.
- Conditions like diabetes may restrict your blood
circulation, which can cause tissue destruction in your skin and increase your
Are the Symptoms of a Decubitus Ulcer?
Each stage of a decubitus ulcer has different symptoms.
Depending on the stage, you may have any of the following:
- skin discoloration
- pain in the affected area
- open skin
- skin that doesn’t lighten to the touch
- skin that is softer or firmer than the
a Decubitus Ulcer
Your doctor may refer you to a wound care team of doctors,
specialists, and nurses experienced in treating pressure sores. The team may
evaluate your ulcer based on several things. These include:
- the size and depth of your ulcer
- the type of tissue directly affected by your
ulcer, such as skin, muscle, or bone
- the color of the skin affected by your ulcer
- the amount of tissue death that occurs from your
- the condition of your ulcer, such as presence of
infection, foul odor, and bleeding
Your doctor may take samples of the fluids and tissue in
your decubitus ulcer. In addition, they may look for signs of bacteria growth
a Decubitus Ulcer
Your treatment will depend on the stage of your ulcer.
Treatment can include medications, therapies, and even surgery.
Antibacterial drugs may treat the infection. You may also
receive medication to relieve or reduce any discomfort.
A process to remove dead tissue called “debridement” is an
option for cleaning your wound.
Keeping the site clean and free of debris is important to
promote healing. Your doctor may order frequent dressing changes of your wound.
Is the Long-Term Outlook?
Your healing process depends on the stage of your ulcer.
Treatment is usually less
difficult if the ulcer is diagnosed in the first two stages. Your doctor
may suggest that you change your diet and increase your fluid intake to help you
recover faster. Later stages often require more aggressive treatments and
longer recovery times.