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Bed Sores – Symptoms, Causes, Stages, And Treatment

Bed Sores – Symptoms, Causes, Stages, And Treatment May 10, 2018

If you are bedridden or confined to a wheelchair, you are at a greater risk of developing bed sores. Bed sores are injuries that usually develop due to prolonged periods of immobility. They are painful, and if not treated in time, they might cause infection, which can spread to the other areas of your body. Worry not, we have natural solutions to solve your problem. Keep reading to find out what they are.

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What Are Bed Sores?

Bed sores are medically known as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers. These are injuries to the skin and underlying tissues that result from prolonged durations of pressure on the skin.
They exhibit the following signs and symptoms.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Bed Sores

The signs and symptoms that indicate pressure ulcers are:

  • Changes in skin color or texture
  • Swelling
  • Pus-filled draining
  • Certain areas of your skin feel warmer or colder than the other areas
  • Skin tenderness in some body parts

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, bed sores can be classified into the following stages:

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Stages Of Bed Sores

Stage 1: This is the mildest stage of bed sores, and it usually affects the upper layer of your skin. The symptoms that surface at this stage are pain, burning, or itching of the skin.

Stage 2: The bedsores might spread a little deeper in the second stage. Symptoms include broken skin that may look like a pus-filled blister.

Stage 3: In this stage, the sores go through the second layer of your skin and reach the fat tissues. The symptoms are sores that look like craters, which may even emanate a bad odor.

Stage 4: This is the most serious stage that might even affect your muscles and ligaments. Its symptoms include deep and big sores, discolored skin (usually black), and in some cases, the tendons, muscles, and bones may be visible.

Now that you have a fair idea about the different stages of bed sores, let us take a quick look at the causes and risk factors.

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Causes Of And Risk Factors For Bed Sores

Bed sores are most often caused by the following factors:

  • Constant pressure on a certain body part
  • Friction that causes your skin to rub repeatedly against clothing or bedding
  • Shearing that causes your skin to pull away in the opposite direction of your bone. For example, sliding over a bed causes your skin to stay put, but your tailbone may move forward.

Certain factors can also increase your risk of developing bed sores. They include:

  • Immobility
  • Lack of sensation as a result of nerve injuries or disorders
  • Lack of nutrition and hydration
  • Medical conditions that affect your blood circulation, like diabetes and vascular diseases

Bed sores are most likely to occur in regions with reduced mobility. The body parts where they are most likely to occur are listed below.

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Where Are Pressure Sores Most Likely To Occur?

Individuals using a wheelchair may develop pressure sores in their:

  • Tailbone or buttocks
  • Shoulder blades
  • Spine
  • Parts of the body like their arms and legs that rest against the wheelchair

Those who are confined to the bed may develop bed sores in their:

  • Back or side of the head
  • Shoulder blade
  • Back
  • Tailbone
  • Hips
  • Heels
  • Ankles
  • The skin behind the knee

Bed sores can be cured quickly in the initial stages. However, if left untreated for long, they might cause serious complications and long-term side effects.

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Long-Term Effects Of Bed Sores

Untreated bed sores can give rise to complications that may even be life-threatening. They are:

  • A skin infection called cellulitis that causes redness and swelling
  • Bed sores can also burrow into your joints and bones and cause bone and joint infections.
  • Skin ulcers that may lead to sepsis
  • Cancer

It is best to avail treatment as early as you can to prevent the severe consequences. To help you combat pressure sores, we have compiled a list of natural home remedies. Scroll down for more details.

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Home Remedies To Treat Bed Sores Naturally

  1. Gel Pads
  2. Essential Oils
  3. Coconut Oil
  4. Manuka Honey
  5. Aloe Vera
  6. Turmeric
  7. Rubbing Alcohol
  8. Vitamin C
  9. Egg White
  10. Petroleum Jelly
  11. Olive Oil
  12. Vinegar
  13. Epsom Salt
  14. Saline Water
  15. Milk Of Magnesia

How To Get Rid Of Pressure Sores Naturally

1. Gel Pads

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You Will Need

Gel pads, cushions, or mattress

What You Have To Do

Use gel pads, cushions, or mattress on your heel, wheelchair, or bed as per your requirement.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this regularly to prevent further damage to your sores.

Why This Works

Gel pads use a pressure relieving gel that feels soft against the skin and helps in keeping it cool. Using gel pads regularly not just helps in preventing sores but also provides comfort and improves the blood circulation in the affected area (1).

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2. Essential Oils

a. Lavender Oil

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You Will Need
  • 6 drops of lavender oil
  • 15 mL of any carrier base (coconut oil or shea butter)
  • Gauze
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix six drops of lavender oil with 15 mL of any carrier base.
  2. Pour this mixture on a folded gauze and cover your sore with it.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this twice daily.

Why This Works

Lavender oil is a great option for treating pressure sores because of its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial properties (2), (3). It not only heals bed sores but also prevents infection in the affected area.

b. Chamomile Oil

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You Will Need
  • 6 drops of chamomile oil
  • 15 mL of coconut oil
  • Gauze
What You Have To Do
  1. Add six drops of chamomile oil to 15 mL of coconut oil.
  2. Pour the mixture on a folded gauze and cover your sore with it.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this twice daily.

Why This Works

Chamomile oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can help in healing the bed sores and fighting the microbes causing them (4), (5).

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3. Coconut Oil

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You Will Need

100% virgin coconut oil (as required)

What You Have To Do
  1. Take a little virgin coconut oil and gently massage it into the affected areas.
  2. Leave it on until it is completely absorbed.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this twice daily.

Why This Works

The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil exhibit strong anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antimicrobial properties, which help in healing the pressure sores (6).

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4. Manuka Honey

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You Will Need

Manuka honey (as required)

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply a little manuka honey directly to the affected areas.
  2. Leave it on overnight or for at least 30 to 45 minutes before washing off.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Manuka honey possesses natural astringent and antimicrobial properties that are proven to speed up the healing of the bed sores and wounds (7).

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5. Aloe Vera

 Aloe Vera Pinit

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You Will Need

Aloe gel (as required)

What You Have To Do
  1. Scrape a little aloe gel from the aloe leaf.
  2. Apply it all over the affected area.
  3. Leave it on for 30 to 40 minutes before washing it off.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this twice daily for best results.

Why This Works

Aloe gel exhibits excellent anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties that can help you get rid of inflamed bed sores faster (8), (9).

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6. Turmeric

Turmeric Pinit

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You Will Need

Organic turmeric powder (as required)

What You Have To Do
  1. Sprinkle organic turmeric powder over the bed sores.
  2. Leave it on for the rest of the day or overnight.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

The presence of curcumin in turmeric gives it exceptional wound-healing and anti-inflammatory properties (10), (11). These help in treating the inflammation and infection that cause bed sores.

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7. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing Alcohol Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton pad
What You Have To Do
  1. Take a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and soak a cotton pad in it.
  2. Apply it to the bed sore.
  3. Follow it up with a moisturizer to prevent irritation.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this twice daily.

Why This Works

The antiseptic nature of rubbing alcohol sanitizes the bed sores instantly and helps in treating the infection causing them. It also speeds up the healing of the wounds that have resulted from the sores (12).

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8. Vitamin C

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You Will Need

500 mg of vitamin C supplements

What You Have To Do
  1. Take 500 mg of vitamin C supplements.
  2. You can also consume more of vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, spinach, kale, and broccoli to get the desired amount of vitamin C naturally.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this daily.

Why This Works

Vitamin C has powerful antioxidant properties that are known to speed up the healing of the wounds that result from pressure sores (13). Vitamin C also enhances the production of collagen, which also aids healing (14).

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9. Egg White

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You Will Need

An egg white

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply egg white to the affected area in an even layer.
  2. Using the cool setting of a blow dryer, seal the bed sores with the egg white.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Egg white has tissue regeneration properties that can assist in regenerating the scarred tissues (15). This, in turn, helps in the faster healing of the bed sores.

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10. Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum Jelly Pinit

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You Will Need
  • Petroleum jelly (as required)
  • Saline solution
  • Gauze
What You Have To Do
  1. Using a saline solution, clean your sore.
  2. Pat the skin dry and apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to it.
  3. Seal the sore using a gauze.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 1 to 2 times daily, preferably at night.

Why This Works

Petroleum jelly forms a protective layer on the cleansed pressure sores and protects them from infection, thus making the wounds heal faster (16).

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11. Olive Oil

 Olive Oil Pinit

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You Will Need

Virgin olive oil (as required)

What You Have To Do
  1. Take some virgin olive oil and apply it directly to the affected area.
  2. Leave it on overnight for at least 30 to 60 minutes before washing it off.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Olive oil is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, as well as highly moisturizing, all of which help heal bed sores (17). It not only treats the existing inflamed sores but also prevents recurrence of the condition (18).

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12. Vinegar

Vinegar Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar
  • 1 cup of water
  • Gauze
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of water and mix well.
  2. Soak a gauze in this mixture and wrap it around the affected area gently.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Vinegar contains acetic acid that imparts anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties to it, which help treat the condition (19), (20).

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13. Epsom Salt

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You Will Need
  • 1 cup of Epsom salt
  • Water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a cup of Epsom salt to a tub filled with water.
  2. Soak in this for 20 to 30 minutes.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this once daily.

Why This Works

Epsom salt exhibits remarkable anti-inflammatory properties, which restore the pH of your skin and help in the faster healing of pressure sores (21).

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14. Saline Water

Saline Water Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of water
  • Cotton balls
What You Have To Do
  1. Add half a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer for 15 minutes and remove from the flame.
  4. Allow the solution to cool down to room temperature.
  5. Transfer it to a clean jar or bottle.
  6. Soak a cotton ball in the saline solution and
  7. clean the open sores with it. Make sure you discard the cotton ball after you are done.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 2 to 3 times daily to keep yourself clean and prevent further infection.

Why This Works

Saline solution is a natural antiseptic that disinfects the pressure sores gently (without irritating them) (22). It is one of the best ways to cure bed sores.

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15. Milk Of Magnesia

Milk Of Magnesia Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of milk of magnesia
  • 1 teaspoon of iodine
  • Cotton pad
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix a teaspoon each of milk of magnesia and iodine.
  2. Set the mixture aside for about 30 minutes.
  3. Soak a cotton pad in this mixture and apply it gently to the affected areas.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this multiple times daily.

Why This Works

A combination of milk of magnesia and iodine is a popular remedy used to treat bed sores in hospitals. While the iodine enhances blood circulation, the milk of magnesia has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that treat the infection and reduce inflammation in the affected area.

To boost the efficiency of the above remedies and prevent the recurrence of bed sores, you can follow the prevention tips mentioned below.

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Prevention Tips

  • If you are bedridden, keep shifting your weight constantly.
  • If you have upper body strength, do push-ups while sitting.
  • Select cushions or mattresses that relieve pressure on your immobile body parts.
  • If you have been using an adjustable bed, keep it at an angle of 30 degrees to avoid shearing.
  • Always clean your skin and keep it dry.
  • Protect your skin and keep it well moisturized.
  • Change your bed and clothing daily to prevent infection.
  • Inspect your skin daily for signs of pressure sores.

The easy home remedies and tips listed in this article will not only reduce the existing discomfort and inflammation but also decrease the likelihood of recurrence of the infection. However, do not solely rely on these remedies. Consult a doctor and use these remedies to assist the prescribed treatment and aid faster recovery.

If you are aware of any more remedies that have helped you or a friend get rid of bed sores, share them with us via the comments section below.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How often do you need to reposition a patient?

Patients need to be frequently repositioned in about every 2 hours. Small changes in position are more than enough for the desired effect.

What are the best creams available for treating bedsores?

One if the most widely used creams to treat all stages of bed sores is an antiseptic cream called Emuaid. If you are looking for natural alternatives, you can try any of the above remedies.

What does tunneling wounds mean?

Tunneling wounds are wounds with channels that extend from the wounds to the neighboring subcutaneous muscles and tissues.

How long does it take to get rid of bed sores?

The first two stages of bed sores usually heal within days to six weeks. However, the third and fourth stages might take several months or never heal completely.

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