Gangrene Treatment

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What Is Gangrene?

Gangrene happens when tissues in your body die after a loss of blood caused by illness, injury, or infection. It usually happens in extremities like fingers, toes, and limbs, but you can also get gangrene in your organs and muscles. There are different types of gangrene, and all of them need medical care right away.

Gangrene Risk Factors

Any condition that affects your blood flow increases your chances of getting gangrene, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Narrowed arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Smoking
  • Trauma or serious injury
  • Serious frostbite
  • Obesity
  • Raynaud's phenomenon (a condition in which the blood vessels that supply your skin become narrowed)
  • Weakened immune system

Gangrene Types

There are two main types of gangrene:

Dry gangrene: This is more common in people who have vascular disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. It usually affects your hands and feet. It happens when something - often, poor circulation -- blocks blood flow to a certain area. As your tissue dries up, it changes color. It may be brown to purplish-blue to black. The tissue often falls off. Unlike with other types of gangrene, you typically don’t have an infection. But dry gangrene can lead to wet gangrene if it becomes infected.

Wet gangrene: This type almost always involves an infection. Burns or trauma in which a body part is crushed or squeezed can quickly cut off blood supply to the area, killing tissue and raising the odds of infection. The tissue swells and blisters; it’s called "wet" because it causes pus. Infection from wet gangrene can spread swiftly around your body.

Types of wet gangrene include:

Internal gangrene: This is gangrene that affects your internal organs. It’s usually related to an infected organ such as your appendix or colon.
Gas gangrene: Gas gangrene is rare but especially dangerous. It happens when you get an infection deep inside your body, such as inside muscles or organs, usually because of trauma. Bacteria called clostridia release dangerous toxins or poisons, along with gas that can be trapped in your tissue. Your skin may become pale and gray and make a crackling sound when pressed. Without treatment, gas gangrene can be deadly within 48 hours.
Fournier’s gangrene: Also a rare condition, Fournier’s gangrene is caused by an infection in your genital area. It affects men more often than women. If the infection gets into your bloodstream, a condition called sepsis, it can be life-threatening.
Progressive bacterial synergistic gangrene (Meleney’s gangrene): This type usually causes painful lesions on your skin 1 to 2 weeks after surgery or minor trauma. It’s also rare.

Gangrene Symptoms

Dry gangrene symptoms include:

  • Shriveled skin that changes from blue to black and eventually comes off
  • Cold, numb skin
  • Pain

Symptoms of wet gangrene include:

  • Swelling and pain
  • Fever and feeling unwell
  • Red, brown, purple, blue, greenish-black, or black skin
  • Blisters or sores with a bad-smelling discharge (pus)
  • A crackling noise when you press on the affected area
  • Thin, shiny, or hairless skin
  • A line between healthy and damaged skin
  • Internal gangrene causes severe pain in the affected area. For example, if you have gangrene in your appendix or colon, you’d probably have belly pain. Internal gangrene can also cause a fever.