Pressure Ulcer Stages

Pressure ulcers can range from mild reddening of the skin to severe tissue damage—and sometimes infection – that extends into muscle and bone. As the pressure ulcer progresses, the skin will break down to form blisters and the skin will begin to die, ultimately infecting the underlying tissues, bones, and joints. These ulcers are described in four stages:

  • Stage 1 sores are not open wounds. The skin may be irritated and experience pain but is free of breaks or tears. The skin appears reddened and may briefly lose color when pressing your finger on it and removing the pressure. Additionally, skin temperature is often warmer and may even feel either firmer or softer than the area of skin around it.
  • At stage 2, the skin breaks and there is some loss of skin or tissue, resulting in a painful abrasion or blister. Here, the sore begins to look like a blister filled with clear liquid. At this stage, some skin my be damaged beyond repair or may die.
  • During stage 3, the ulcer worsens and extends into the tissue beneath the skin, resulting in a small skin crater. Fat may show in the sore, but no muscle, tendon, or bone is exposed during this stage. <link to stage 3 pressure ulcer>
  • At stage 4, the ulcer is very deep, reaching into muscle and bone and causing extensive damage. Additional damage to deeper tissues, tendons, and joints may occur as well.  and is indicated when there is full loss of skin or tissue, resulting in exposed muscle, tendon or bone. <link to stage 4 pressure ulcer>