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Bedsores: Causes and Treatments

Bedsore Symptoms

It's important to recognize the early signs of bedsores to alleviate pain and reduce damage. Understanding the symptoms and signs of bedsores can also help prevent them.

The name "bedsores" can deceive people about the severity of the condition. Bedsores aren't simply skin irritations that affect only the skin's surface. They may begin that way, but bedsores quickly develop into major wounds that infect not only the skin, but also the muscle, bone and blood below [source: AETNA InteliHealth]. Bedsores can also be extremely painful.

Early signs of a bedsore include long-lasting redness in a particular area of skin that's itchy or painful. The area may also feel warm or spongy. In people with darker skin, the area may appear blue or purple rather than red and may become flaky. These are considered stage I symptoms [source: Mayo Clinic].

If caught in the early stages, more serious damage can be prevented. Alleviating the pressure to the area should enable the developing bedsore to clear up on its own. However, if a bedsore goes unnoticed and the pressure continues, then it quickly advances to the next stage. Stage II symptoms include skin loss and the growth of a blister or an open sore [source: Collison]. Red or purple coloring may infuse the area and swelling may occur [source: AETNA InteliHealth]. If the bedsore continues untreated, then stage III symptoms will develop.

At stage III, the damage has moved beyond the skin's outermost layers, and infection has spread to the tissue below. The bedsore now looks more like a deep crater [source: Mayo Clinic]. At this point, the bedsores are causing more serious pain, and they must be treated to avoid stage IV complications.

A stage IV bedsore is a serious medical emergency. At this point the wound has deepened and reached a person's muscles, bones and joints, and the person is at risk of developing an infection that can spread to the blood [source: Mayo Clinic]. If the infection reaches the blood, a condition known as sepsis, then it can be carried to other parts of the body, including the heart [source: Zeller]. Signs of sepsis include fever and chills. Stage IV bedsores require more invasive and prolonged medical treatment.

Read on to learn how to treat bedsores at various stages.