The decubitus ulcer is often referred ot as a bed sore. The term “decubitus” stems from the Latin word “decubere”, which means lying down. They can develop rapidly and progress to stage four if not immediately cared for. Decubitus ulcers are open wounds on the body that are difficult to treat and can lead to death. In fact, decubitus ulcers are ranked as the number two cause of death resulting from medical treatment.
Decubitus ulcers are caused by constant pressure over time. Friction from movement and shearing and the movement of skin in the opposite direction of bone are contributing causes. Decubitus ulcers are usually found on individuals that are paralyzed, confined to a bed, or sit in a wheel chair.
The first stage of a decubitus ulcer is a spot of redness that does not go away, even after pressure is relieved. This is the first symptom, and should be taken seriously despite the lack of severity. Besides redness, the spot may feel warm, itchy, or sore.
The second stage of a decubitus ulcer is marked by the beginning of skin loss, starting with the epidermis, but can be as deep as the dermis. A stage two decubitus ulcer can look like a blister or scrape surrounded by purple or red discoloration.
At stage three, a decubitus ulcer is an open wound. Due to the damage caused to all the skin layers, the decubitus ulcer looks like a deep crater in the skin. There can even be extensive damage that cannot be seen underneath.
A stage four decubitus ulcer is the worst and most difficult to treat. There is much tissue loss and damage to muscle, bone, tendons, and ligaments. The crater is very deep, and bone can often be seen protruding through the flesh.
Decubitus ulcers are difficult to treat, especially as they progress through the four stages. The most important treatment is relieving pressure from the area. Treatment can range from simple cleaning to debridement for stages one and two, or surgical procedures for stages three and four. Decubitus ulcers are easily preventable, but unfortunately occur.
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