Bed sores, or bedsores, pressure sores or pressure ulcers, form when circulation is cut off to certain areas of the body due to remaining in the same position for extended periods. People who are bedridden or in wheelchairs are more likely to develop bed sores if they do not get assistance to change positions often enough. Older patients are especially susceptible to the sores because of their thinner skin.
Bed sores can cause moderate to severe pain, burning and itching. The skin may blister and damage deeper skin tissues when the sore is not treated promptly. The most severe bed sores, classified as stage four sores, can result in deep wounds susceptible to infection.
Bedsores can also affect the muscles, bones and joints if the patient does not receive proper treatment. Home treatment is vital at the first signs of a bedsore, and medical treatment is often necessary for severe sores and sores that do not improve with home treatment methods.
It is important to relieve pressure from the affected area at the first sign of a developing bed sore, which typically manifests as warm, red or purplish skin. Pillows and foam pads can help relieve pressure on a developing sore if the patient cannot be moved into a position that places no weight on the sore. Covering the sore with gauze or a moist bandage can help relieve pressure on the sore and prevent it from getting irritated by rubbing on clothing or bedding.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can help relieve some of the discomfort associated with bed sores when taken as directed. Topical antibiotic creams can help keep the wound moist when you apply a bandage or dressing and reduce the risk of infection.
Soaking the affected area in warm water can help soothe painful bed sores and temporarily relieve stinging or burning sensations. Whirlpool baths are best as they help remove dead and damaged skin around the sore while soothing the skin.
Proper nutrition is extremely important for patients with bed sores. A diet with adequate amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals can help promote healing and prevent the sore from getting worse. Vitamin C and zinc are particularly important to the healing process and many patients benefit from taking vitamin C and zinc supplements in addition to consuming a nutritious diet, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Patients who remain seated or lying down for extended periods of time should change positions frequently to help prevent bed sores. Patients who can shift weight in a wheelchair or bed should shift slightly every 15 minutes and change from lying on their left sides to their right sides at least once every two hours to help prevent pressure sores, cautions the American Cancer Society.
Keeping the skin clean and dry can also help prevent sores, and patients should get as much exercise as possible to increase circulation throughout their bodies.
While home treatment may be sufficient to treat mild bed sores at the first sign of a problem, it is important for patients to notify their doctors if the sore worsens or begins to drain fluid.
Bed sores accompanied by fever, weakness, confusion or rapid heartbeat can be signs of a serious infection. Patients who experience these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
Patients should check with their physicians before using over-the-counter pain relievers or topical creams on bed sores.