Skin | General Practice | Gangrene (Disease)


Gangrene is a dangerous and potentially fatal condition that happens when the blood flow to a large group of tissues is cut off. This causes them to rot and die. Although gangrene often turns the affected skin a greenish-black, the word gangrene is not related to green, but rather to the condition itself. It comes from Greek and Latin words for a gnawing sore or decayed tissue.

There are different types of gangrene with different symptoms, such as dry gangrene, wet gangrene, gas gangrene, internal gangrene and necrotising fasciitis. Treatment options include debridement (or, in severe cases, amputation) of the affected body parts, antibiotics, vascular surgery, maggot therapy or hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Skin symptoms include discoloration (blue, red, bronze or black), foul smelling discharge, loss of sensation, numbness, pain, swelling, and air underneath the skin. Other symptoms include: confusion, low blood pressure, and fever. Many other symptoms can occur if the gangrene affects an internal organ.

Causes and Risk factors

The common cause of either wet or dry gangrene is loss of an effective local blood supply to any tissue. Loss of the blood supply means tissues are deprived of oxygen, thus causing the cells in the tissue to die. The most common causes of tissue blood supply loss are infections, trauma, and diseases that can affect blood vessels (usually arteries).

Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment is usually surgical debridement, with amputation necessary in many cases. Antibiotics alone are not effective because they do not penetrate infected muscles sufficiently. Another treatment is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This treatment is used to treat Gas Gangrene. This form of treatment uses under increased pressure and increased oxygen content. The outcome of this treatment is to allow your blood to carry more amounts of oxygen, which helps stop the growth in bacteria. ...

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