Bed sores, also called pressure ulcers, are injuries to your skin and underlying tissue caused by prolonged pressure. They can range from mild reddening on your skin to severe tissue damage. It’s important to care for these wounds—and more importantly prevent them—because they can cause an infection that extends into your muscle and bone. Here’s a look at how to treat bed sores.
The first step in treating your bed sore is to reduce the pressure that caused it. Supportive surfaces like mattresses, beds, and special cushions can relieve pressure and help you lie in a comfortable position. If you’re in a wheelchair, use a cushion for support.
You should be repositioned to alleviate pressure regularly. If you’re in a wheelchair, you can practice repositioning by shifting your weight about every 15 minutes. If you’re in a bed, you should change positions every two hours.
It’s vital that you keep wounds clean in order to prevent an infection. If the bed sore is in stage one (without broken skin), carefully wash it with mild soap and water and then pat dry. If the sore is open, clean it with a saline solution—this needs to be done every time the dressing is changed.
Removing Damaged Tissue
Removing damaged, dead, or infected tissue from the wound can help with proper healing. Tissue can be removed in the following ways.
- Surgical debridement: This process cuts away dead tissue.
- Mechanical debridement: Using a pressurized irrigation device, low-frequency mist ultrasound, or specialized dressing, wound debris is loosened and removed.
- Autolytic debridement: More commonly used on smaller, uninfected wounds, this treatment method promotes your body’s natural healing process by using enzymes to break down dead tissue. Special dressings are also used to keep the wound clean.
- Enzymatic debridement: Chemical enzymes and appropriate dressings are applied to the wound to break down dead tissue.
Bed sores are sometimes painful. Over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help relieve your pain.
Topical or oral antibiotics can treat bed sores that are infected and not responding to other treatment methods.