Definition

What is gangrene?

Gangrene is a condition when part of your body tissue dies. This happens because of the lack of blood from the circulatory system to the tissue. Gangrene usually affects human’s extremities, the areas farthest from your heart, such as your toes and fingers. However, it also can impact other parts of our body as well. Gangrene can even affect your internal organs.

The condition typically starts in a specific body part, such as a leg, hand, or internal organ. Gangrene can spread through your body and engender you to go into shock if left untreated. Shock is a serious condition marked by a variety of symptoms including low blood pressure. Shock can be life threatening and is considered a medical emergency.

Gangrene is a medical emergency that could lead to amputations and or death. Recognizing and treating the condition as fast as possible will improve your outlook.

How common is gangrene?

Gangrene occurs equally in men and women. It occurs most commonly in patients with diabetes and patients with peripheral vascular disease.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of gangrene?

It is seen that the frequent first sign of dry gangrene is a reddish line that develops around the affected tissue. This line may later turn black.

Some other signs and symptoms that might indicate you have gangrene include:

  • A wound that is red, sore, or swollen
  • A wound that is filled with pus or gives off a bad smell
  • An isolated area of your body feels cold
  • Lacking a sense of touch in an isolated area
  • Sores that keep coming back in the same place on your body
  • Part of your skin has turned an unusual color (greenish-black, red, blue, or bronze)

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Persistent fever
  • Skin changes — including discoloration, warmth, swelling, blisters or lesions — that won’t go away
  • A foul-smelling discharge leaking from a sore
  • Sudden pain at the site of a recent surgery or trauma
  • Skin that’s pale, hard, cold and numb

Causes

What causes gangrene?

There are two primary causes of gangrene, include:

Lack of blood supply

Your blood provides oxygen, nutrients to feed your cells, and immune system components, such as antibodies, to ward off infections. Without a proper blood supply, cells can’t survive, and your tissue decays.

Infection

If bacteria thrive unchecked for long, infection can take over and cause your tissue to die, causing gangrene.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for gangrene?

You may have higher risks for this condition if you are experiencing these following conditions:

  • Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in your legs or arms
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Blood clots
  • Appendicitis
  • Hernia
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol, and intravenous drug
  • Some other physical events could increase your risk of gangrene. You may be more likely to develop this condition if you:
    • Have lowered immunity because of a medical condition or cancer treatment
    • Have recently had surgery
    • Have suffered a head injury, an animal bite, a serious burn, or severe frostbite
    • Have been hurt in a traumatic way that includes the crushing of body tissues
    • Have had an injection of promethazine hydrochloride that led to tissue damage

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is gangrene diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed. Then some tests will be recommende, such as:

Lab Analysis of Tissue or Fluid Samples

A scraping of tissue from your affected body part may be examined with a microscope to look for dead cells.

Blood Tests

An abnormally high white blood cell count can indicate a gangrenous infection.

 

Medical Imaging

Some kinds of imaging are helpful in diagnosing the spread of gangrene in your internal tissues. These tests could include X-rays, MRI scans, or CT scans. 

How is gangrene treated?

Some recommended treatment options might include:

Antibiotics

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if bacteria are present. These are typically given intravenously, or through a needle directly into the blood stream.

Vascular Surgery

For people with poor circulation that results in gangrene, vascular surgery (surgery on the arteries or veins) may be recommended in order to improve the flow of blood through the veins to body tissues.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber

Placing a person with gas gangrene in a special oxygen-rich environment can slow the growth of bacteria. This allows the skin to begin healing. It also brings oxygen to the damaged tissue to promote healing.

Tissue Debridement

In serious gangrene cases, the dead tissue or body part may need to be removed. This process is called debridement

Amputation

For severe cases, amputation of a limb, finger, or toe could be necessary to save your life. People who must have part of an arm or leg amputated due to gangrene may be fitted with a prosthesis, or artificial limb, to replace the missing body part.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage gangrene?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with gangrene:

Care for your diabetes

If you have diabetes, make sure you examine your hands and feet daily for cuts, sores and signs of infection, such as redness, swelling or drainage. Ask your doctor to examine your hands and feet at least once a year.

Lose weight

Excess pounds not only put you at risk of diabetes but also place pressure on your arteries, constricting blood flow and putting you at risk of infection and slow wound healing.

Don’t use tobacco

The chronic use of tobacco products can damage your blood vessels.

Help prevent infections

Wash any open wounds with a mild soap and water and try to keep them clean and dry until they heal.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: July 11, 2017 | Last Modified: July 11, 2017

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