If you or a loved one has ever developed bed sores, you understand just how painful they can be. Bed sores are common among the elderly when they are confined for extended periods to beds and wheelchairs.
Bed sores are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue caused by prolonged pressure on the area. They are categorized into four stages, with stage 4 being the most serious case of bed sores that often require medical attention.
Fortunately, if identified early enough, bed sores can be treated with home remedies. In this article, we’ll discuss how to tell if you or a family member has bed sores and explain how to properly treat them at home.
How do Bed Sores form?
Bed sores – also referred to as pressure sores, pressure ulcers, and decubitus ulcers – typically form when certain areas of skin are exposed to constant pressure for up to 2 or 3 hours, causing the blood vessels that provide the skin with oxygen and nutrients to be cut off. This causes the tissue to die, leading to bed sores. The longer the wound goes without treatment, the worst the symptoms can get. Pressure sores can become infected and spread to the bone and muscle.
Bed sores can take days, months, or even years to heal, depending on several factors, including the severity of the injury, your physical condition, and any underlying medical issues. Seniors with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure are more prone to developing pressure ulcers.
Other common causes of bed sores include:
- Not being able to change position in a bed or wheelchair
- Excess moisture from urine
- Sliding down in a bed, causing tissue damage
How to Tell if a Senior has Bed Sores
It’s important to look for signs of bed sores, as early detection and treatment can help lessen the severity of the injury and the recovery time.
Common signs of pressure sores include:
- Tender area on the skin
- Changes in skin texture or color
- Pus-like draining
- Areas of the skin that are cooler or warmer to the touch
Although bed sores can form on almost any part of your skin, they are especially common on the backs and sides of heads, backs and sides of knees, heels, shoulders, elbows, and buttocks.
The 4 Stages of Bed Sores
Bed sores are classified into four stages. According to Familydoctor.com, they include:
- Stage 1. During this early stage, pressure sores may appear red for people with lighter skin, and purple or blue for people with darker skin. They are often warm to the touch and may itch and burn.
- Stage 2. Stage 2 bed sores become more painful and damaged, and the wound may resemble a blister or cut. The skin around the wound may also become discolored.
- Stage 3. By stage 3, the wound may have become deeper due to damage below the skin, and the pressure ulcer may resemble a crater. If you have stage 3 bed sores, you should seek medical treatment.
- Stage 4. Stage 4 bed sores should also be treated by a doctor immediately. During this most serious stage, the bed sore transforms into a large, deep wound, and bones, muscles, and tendons may be visible at the bottom of the sore.
When to seek medical treatment
Although we’ll discuss home treatment for bed sores, it’s important to watch for signs that indicate medical treatment is needed. Seek medical care if the bed sores become infected. Infected bed sores can be accompanied by a fever, a foul odor, pus coming from the wound, changes in skin color, and swelling.
It’s advised to call a doctor if you don’t see any improvements after 24 to 48 hours, despite relieving the area of pressure.
Home treatment for bed sores in seniors
If you discover a bed sore in its early stages, home treatment methods can reduce the pain and help the wound recover.
Some home treatment tips for bed sores include:
Relieve Press from the Area
Relieve pressure from the wounded area immediately. Reposition your body at least every one to two hours and about every 15 minutes if you’re confined to a wheelchair. Be careful when you move so you don’t cause friction against the pressure ulcer, which can increase pain and worsen the sore.
Provide Proper Cushioning
Consider using foam mattress pads, special pillows, and foam cushions to help provide additional cushioning to the bed. Talk to a healthcare provider to learn about the different types of mattresses and pillows that can help with bed sores.
Clean the Wounded Area
For stage 1 bed sores, clean the wound with soap and water and provide a moisturizer. Stage 2 bed sores can be treated with a saline rinse to remove any dead or loose tissue. Talk to a doctor about treating stage 3 and 4 bed sores.
Apply a Bandage
Apply a special bandage or dressing to protect the wound from infection. Change the bandage regularly, and clean and moisturize the area before applying a new bandage.
Avoid Further Sources of Injury
To prevent the wound from worsening, consider the following tips:
- Lie in a position that won’t cause you to put pressure on the sore or cause you to slip.
- Check for additional bed sores daily
- Lightly powder your bedsheets to prevent the wound from rubbing against the sheets.
- Areas of the skin that are cooler or warmer to the touch
Lifestyle changes can promote a faster healing process. This includes quitting smoking and drinking alcohol, drinking more water, and eating a healthier diet.
Consider Light Exercises
Talk to a doctor about incorporating light exercise and stretching into your daily routine.
Use Natural Remedies
Some people are sold on using natural remedies to treat bed sores, including honey, aloe vera, coconut oil, turmeric, and saline water.
Best videos to learn how to treat bed sores at home
Videos are a great way to learn how to treat bed sores at home, especially if you’re a visual learner. There are dozens of videos online, but we recommend choosing ones that are from established health organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic or other reputable sites, including Carewell.
Preventing bed sores from occurring in the first place can help ensure you or a loved one never has to feel the excruciating pain of these wounds. If you do notice bed sores forming, treat them immediately to prevent an infection, and always consult your doctor if the wound doesn’t show signs of healing after a couple of days.