What Is Gangrene? – Causes And Consequences

Gangrene is the death of organic tissue caused by a bacterial infection or lack of blood supply. This can affect arms, legs, fingers, muscles and internal organs, this depends on the type of gangrene that is present in the affected person. Gangrene needs immediate medical attention, as it spreads very quickly and the faster it can be identified, the lesser the consequences.

symptoms of gangrene

The symptoms that appear before gangrene are:

Skin discoloration: This can be pale gray to blue, black, purple, and red

Intense pain followed by numbness

Swelling

blisters

Foul discharge, plus an unpleasant odor

Cold skin

Fever or low blood pressure

Pus

cause of gangrene

Gangrene occurs when there is a lack of blood supply, since the blood is in charge of carrying oxygen and nutrients to the body, if there is not enough blood the cells cannot survive, therefore the tissue begins to decompose.

Gangrene in the diabetic foot
Diabetic arteriopathy, showing gangrene and ulcerations on the toes. Although unusual in other atherosclerotic peripheral vascular diseases, this condition is a serious threat in diabetes. A hand is shown taking the dorsal pulse of the foot.

types of gangrene

  • Dry gangrene: This type of gangrene occurs in dry and wrinkled skin, the color that can manifest is brown to blue, purplish or black. Occurring in people with diabetes or a blood vessel disease such as atherosclerosis, this type of gangrene usually progresses slowly.
  • Wet gangrene: It occurs when the tissue is infected by bacteria, and the characteristics of wet gangrene are mainly swelling, blistering, and a moist appearance. In general, the people affected are those who suffer from diabetes , when they get to injure a foot or a toe, they become infected and this type of gangrene manifests. Burns, frostbite, or other types of injury may also occur. This type of gangrene is at high risk of rapid spread and can be fatal.
  • Gas gangrene: Clostridium perfringens bacteria is the cause of this type of gangrene. Gas gangrene develops in deeper tissues so the skin may appear normal at first, however as it progresses, the skin may change color, such as grayish or purplish-red, as well as blistering in this area and making a crackling sound. by touching it. This type of gangrene, if not treated in time, can be fatal.
  • Internal gangrene: Internal organs such as the intestines, gallbladder or appendix are mainly affected by this type of gangrene, this occurs when the blood flow of an internal organ is blocked. The severity of this condition can be fatal.
  • Fournier’s gangrene: An infection in the genital area or in the urinary tract can trigger this type of gangrene, since the affected organs are the genitals. It usually occurs more in men, but women are not exempt from suffering from this condition.
  • Meleney’s gangrene: It is also known as progressive synergistic bacterial gangrene. In general, this occurs after a complication of surgery and is not so frequent.

Who is at risk of gangrene?

At the beginning of this blog we emphasized that gangrene occurs when not enough blood reaches some part of the body, for which the tissue begins to die and spreads to the rest of the body. Therefore, people who are at risk of gangrene are those who have diseases or injuries that affect the bloodstream, such as diabetics, smokers, people with obesity, people with diseases of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis) , people with immunosuppression such as HIV and recently some people have suffered from gangrene due to complications from COVID-19.

Grades of gangrene in the diabetic foot
Consequences

This type of condition is very serious, which is why urgent medical attention is needed. It is quite frequent to amputate in order to save the life of the person who suffers from it. At the Puebla Mediprax prosthesis clinic we have had the experience of caring for diabetic patients who suffered amputations due to gangrene complications. This condition progresses very quickly, many of our patients have suffered above the knee amputations (transfemoral amputation) due to not being treated on time.

However, when gangrene is detected early, it can be treated with intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, penicillin, antibiotics, and even removal of harmful tissue.

In order to prevent gangrene, especially in diabetic patients, it is important to control blood glucose levels, check frequently for any injury or cut on the hands and feet to verify that there is no infection or sores. It is important to eat a good diet, exercise and not smoke or consume tobacco to have good blood flow. Hygiene must also be present in daily life, to prevent any wound from becoming infected.

At the Mediprax Footlab foot clinic we have custom-made orthopedic insoles for diabetic foot , we are also at your disposal for the elaboration of all kinds of leg prostheses and arm prostheses with medium and high-tech components, adjustable to your needs and investment.

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