Pressure ulcer


A pressure ulcer is an area of skin that breaks down when something keeps rubbing or pressing against the skin.

Alternative Names

Bedsore; Decubitus ulcer


Pressure on the skin reduces blood flow to the area. Without enough blood, the skin can die. An ulcer may form.

You are more likely to get a pressure ulcer if you: 


Symptoms of a pressure ulcer are:

Pressure sores most commonly occur on the

Pressure sores categorized as deep tissue injury may be purple or maroon. This may be an area of skin or blood-filled blister due to damage of soft tissue from pressure. The area around may be sore, firm, mushy, boggy, warmer, or cooler compared with tissue nearby.

Pressure sores are grouped by their severity. Stage I is the earliest stage. Stage IV is the worst.

Pressure sores are unstageable when the tissue at the base of the ulcer is covered by dead skin that is yellow, tan, green, or brown. 

First Aid

If you have a pressure ulcer:

If the pressure ulcer changes or you get a new one, tell your doctor or nurse.


When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor or nurse if you develop blisters or an open sore.

Call immediately if there are signs of infection. Signs include:

An infection can spread to the rest of the body and cause serious problems. Signs that the infection may have spread  to the blood can include fever, weakness, and confusion.


If you are on bedrest or cannot move because of a medical condition, someone should check you for pressure sores every day.

You or your caregiver should examine your body from head to toe. Pay special attention to the areas where pressure ulcers often form. Look for reddened areas that, when pressed, do not turn white. Also look for blisters, sores, or craters.

Take the following steps to prevent pressure ulcers:


Fonder MA, Lazarus GS, Cowan DA, Aronson-Cook B, Kohli AR, Mamelak AJ. Treating the chronic wound: a practical approach to the care of nonhealing wounds and wound care dressings. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58(2):185-206.

Bluestein D, Javaheri A. Pressure ulcers: prevention, evaluation, and management. Am Fam Physician. 2008;78(10):1186-1194.

Review Date: 11/20/2012
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, and Stephanie Slon.
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