Pressure ulcers, or decubitus, are deep, open sores caused by prolonged pressure of certain bones against the skin. Pressure ulcers are commonly called bedsores, as they most often affect people confined to a bed or chair.
Pressure ulcers form where bones cause the greatest force on the skin. The areas most associated with bedsores are the tailbone, heels, elbows, shoulder blades, knees, ankles, the back of the head, and the spine. Constant pressure on the skin squeezes tiny blood vessels and prevents them from carrying nutrients and oxygen to the skin. As a result, the tissue dies and a pressure ulcer forms.
One in 10 hospital patients, one in eight home care patients, and one in four nursing home residents suffer from pressure ulcers. Several factors result in an increased risk of pressure ulcers. Anyone who is confined to a bed, chair or wheelchair has an elevated risk. Anyone unable to move, due to paralysis, coma or hip fracture is also likely to suffer from pressure ulcers. Incontinence can affect your chances as well, as moisture can irritate the skin. Poor nutrition also increases the likelihood of pressure ulcers, as it weakens the skin. Finally, anyone who suffers from lowered mental awareness is also susceptible, as they may lack the alertness to change sitting positions to relieve pressure at the necessary frequency.