Bed Sores

Bed sores commonly known as pressure sores, skin ulcers or decubitus are cuts, lesions or swelling caused due to prolonged pressure on any part of body and usually affect parts of the body over bony areas.

Bed sores commonly occur among handicapped, disabled, paralyzed or bed ridden patients as they are unable to change their position frequently and continuous pressure on specific parts of body lead to bed sores. Bed sores can be treated effectively if found early but can become a life threatening disease as it cuts off blood circulation to parts of the body.

Bed sores commonly occur around the buttocks, heels, lower back and the hip bone area among bed ridden individuals while spine, ankles, knees, head , shoulders are also susceptible to pressure sores depending on the fixed position of the patient. It is important to note that bedsores, if small and detected early can be treated by regular dressings while large or deep bedsores need plastic surgery techniques.

Symptoms of Bed Sores

Based on the severity of the condition, bed sores go through four different stages and the symptoms seen during each stage vary.

Stage I

  • The skin remains intact, even in the initial stages
  • In case of lighter skin color, the skin appears darker and does not lighten briefly (blanch) when it is touched
  • In case of darker skin, no changes in the actual skin color, but the appearance of bluish or purple spots
  • Pain, softness, tenderness and change in temperature around the skin

Stage II

  • Ulcers or open wounds
  • Loss or damage in the underlying layer of the dermis as well as the epidermis
  • Appearance of pinkish, shallow and basin-like wounds
  • Ruptured fluid-filled blisters on the skin

Stage III

  • Development of deep wound at the site of the ulcer
  • Skin loss, with exposure of fat
  • Crater-like ulcers appearing on the skin
  • Appearance

Causes of Bed Sores

A bed sore is caused by any prolonged pressure against your skin that interferes with and inhibits the required supply of blood to certain areas of the skin and its underlying tissues. It is mainly factors that are related to restricted mobility that make the skin more vulnerable and susceptible to damage, thereby contributing to the development of pressure sores. The three main factors that lead to pressure sores are:

  • Sustained Pressure: In case a part of your skin and the underlying tissues get trapped between your bones and the hard surface of perhaps a bedframe or a wheelchair, the pressure applied to the area is likely to be higher than the pressure of blood that flows through the capillaries. It is not only the circulation of blood that gets affected because of this, but the amount of oxygen and nutrients supplied to that area would be reduced significantly. Due to deprivation of oxygen and nutrients, the cells of the skin and the tissues get damaged and may also die, leading to a severe bed sore. Sustained pressure is more likely to occur in areas where the presence of fat and muscle is limited.
  • Shear: This occurs when two surfaces are moving in opposite directions and is more commonly seen in those patients, who use elevated hospital beds for a long period of time. In such a scenario, the patient may slide down the bed and though the tailbone moves down, the skin that is above it, remains intact, thereby leading to damaged blood vessels and tissues.
  • Friction: Resistance to motion is a common problem seen in those who are handled or moved around with the assistance of caregivers. If the patient’s skin is moist, the friction can cause a greater amount of damage.

Remedies for Bed Sores

It is much easier to prevent bed sores than it is to treat them. However, this does not mean that bed sores cannot be cured or that they can always be prevented. There are several options that you can opt for, which include medical procedures as well as home remedies. Given below are some of the simple steps that need to be followed, for treating and dealing with bed sores:

  • Cleaning the Wound: A wound that has not been cleaned properly is prone to infections and inflammation. You could use some fresh water, with mild soap to treat the bed sores. In case of open sores, you need to use saltwater (saline solution) to clean the wound a couple of times a day.
  • Dressing the Wound: You can expedite the healing process by keeping the wound moist and dressing it appropriately. A proper dressing protects the wounds from infections too and keeps the surrounding area dry. There is a huge variety of dressings that you can opt for, like gauzes, gels foams, treated bandages and films. At times, you may be advised to use a combination of dressings for best results.
  • Exercising: This may be a huge challenge for those who are confined to a bed or a wheelchair. However, there are many exercise disciplines that are planned and crafted, keeping in mind the specific needs and capabilities of the patient.
  • Practicing Healthy Habits: There are some habits, like smoking, that affect the circulation of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the skin. Therefore, in order to avoid bed sores, it is best to quit such unhealthy habits.
  • Protecting Bony Areas: In order to expedite the healing process, it is important to use some sort of cushioning on the bony area. A soft mattress or an air mattress can help prevent and heal bed sores faster.
  • Herbs: There are certain herbs that can be applied directly on to the wound, to help them heal faster. Some of the most widely recommended herbs for this purpose include witch hazel, goldenseal, turmeric root, myrrh and comfrey.

Diet for Bed Sores

  • Nutrition plays a very important role in most health conditions and following a healthy diet can have a positive effect on the patient’s overall health and well-being. Moreover, since severe weight loss and being too thin can lead to the formation of bed sores, it is important for all patients to make sure that they eat foods that are highly nutritious, with an adequate caloric content. It is best for patients to follow a diet that is rich in raw vegetables and fruits.
  • Vitamin C and zinc are both important for healing wounds and therefore foods that are high in these nutrients should be consumed in higher quantities. Oranges, lemons, limes, peppers and other citric fruits are all high in Vitamin C and therefore their consumption should be increased. Patients who are bed ridden can also be given fresh orange (without sugar or preservatives) for improving overall immunity.
  • Protein is also important for building muscle and strengthening the body. Therefore, certain foods that are high in protein, like eggs, chicken, turkey, low far dairy products and a few varieties of nuts should be given to people who are immobile.
  • One of the most important considerations would be your hydration level. It is extremely important to consume a significant amount of water throughout the day as this helps keep the skin hydrated and improves its overall health, thereby reducing the risk of bed sores.

Suggestion for Bed Sores

The treatment and care required for bed sores is quite demanding and challenging, and it can be particularly hard on family members or caregivers, who are already trying to cope with the debilitating condition that has afflicted the patient. Fortunately, there are several social workers you can contact, who will help you to identify community workers that not only provide services, but also run support groups for patients suffering from debilitating diseases. Alternately, you could also get in touch with physicians or nurses who specialize in end-of-life palliative care, which focuses on reducing pain and enhancing comfort.

Bed sores should never be left unchecked and untreated. As soon as a bed sore is noticed, it is important to seek medical attention.

Bed Sores Treatments - more information
Bed Sores - Frequently asked questions
1 Bed Sores remedies suggested by our users
Bed sores healed using sugar or honey
suggested by John on Thursday, May 15, 2008

Years ago my mother worked in a home for the elderly and the staff kept a bowl of sugar at the bedside of those who had bed sores. They sugared the sores. Apparently the bacteria causing the sores could not live in the sugar. I've since heard that people have treated bed sores the same way with honey. I haven't had an occasion to see either method tried.