Gangrene is a condition in which your body tissues die due to an infection or restricted blood flow. It primarily affects your arms and legs, including the fingers. However, the disease may occur in internal body parts like the gallbladder.
The chances of gangrene increase when you have an underlying cause that restricts blood flow. If you have diabetes or hardened arteries, you have a high chance of getting gangrene. The significant gangrene types include:
If you have an autoimmune condition, diabetes or vascular disease, you have a high chance of gangrene. It occurs when your hands and feet do not receive proper blood flow. Lack of blood leads to a change in the tissue colour. The tissue can change its colour from brown to black. It may fall from your body due to blood deficiency. Dry gangrene does not happen due to a bacterial infection. However, it may develop into wet gangrene if it gets infected.
Wet gangrene develops due to an infection. If you have faced trauma or accident, you may have faced restricted blood flow. Collision or other damages may cut off the blood vessels and hinder smooth blood supply to the body parts. The reduced blood supply kills the tissue, possibly leading to infection in your body. In addition, the tissue inflates due to pus accumulation. As a result, the infection can spread to other body parts.
There are subtypes of wet gangrene. These include:
- Internal gangrene: It affects your internal organs and is related to organs like the appendix and colon.
- Gas gangrene: It develops in the muscles or organs due to trauma. The infection is caused by a bacteria called clostridia. The bacteria releases toxin and gas that gets trapped in your skin tissues. As a result, your skin changes its colour and may become pale or grey. Moreover, when you press the skin, it may make a crackling sound. It is a rare condition that may become life-threatening within 48 hours.
- Fournier's gangrene: It occurs due to an infection in your genital region. Men are more infected by this condition in comparison to women. The disease may get into your bloodstream and become fatal.
- Meleney's gangrene: It is a rare condition that causes skin lesions after a trauma or surgery.
It is crucial to examine and detect gangrene in its early stages. Then, if you start the medications at the right time, there are chances of a more remarkable recovery. The treatment process includes surgery to remove dead tissues, antibiotics for infections, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
If you have developed dry or wet gangrene, you may see the following changes in your body.
- Your skin colour will change and may become dark. In dry gangrene, your skin will change its colour from red to black. In contrast, the skin swells and develops a foul smell. Gas gangrene produces brownish pus that smells bad.
- Your skin may shed and appear shiny. Moreover, you may notice a clear line that differentiates the healthy skin from the infected skin.
- Pain followed by loss of sensation and movement.
Moreover, you may feel a loss of pulse in the arteries.
Internal gangrene affects the body organs and leads to tissue death. It does not exhibit any external signs of the disease; however, you may notice the below-mentioned symptoms due to trauma.
- Fever and chills
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Shortness of breath
Your body reacts in these familiar ways after developing internal gangrene.
You may observe the following skin issues in gas gangrene.
- Skin swelling and pain
- Change in colour from pale to black
- Skin blisters filled with brown-red fluid
- The skin may leak and produce a foul-smelling discharge
- Creates a crackling sensation due to gas movement inside the tissues
The gas is produced by bacteria and fastens the process of tissue necrosis. You can witness the skin change within minutes. It is a rare but severe condition. Improper treatment may prove life-threatening.
If you have more than one of the following symptoms, you may contact your doctor immediately. These include:
- Persistent fever
- Pale, stiff, cold, and numb skin
- Foul-smelling discharge from the skin
- Sudden pain at the surgery or trauma site
- Sudden skin changes that do not go away easily
Gangrene is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Delay in diagnosis can prove to be fatal for you.
Gangrene develops due to obstructed blood flow to the tissues. The lack of blood supply depletes the oxygen and nutrient levels in the blood leading to the death of skin tissues.
Dry gangrene can develop from:
If your toes and legs' arteries and veins are in poor condition, you may develop gangrene. However, vascular problems take time to create and are influenced by high blood pressure, peripheral arterial disease, and diabetes.
Heat, chemical agents, and cold climatic conditions may affect the blood flow leading to gangrene. As a result, you might develop wet gangrene later.
Due to cold weather, you do not receive the required blood in your toes and fingers. As a result, it leads to gangrene.
High blood sugar can impact your blood vessels and nerves. If the blood vessels get ruptured, it will lead to an improper blood flow to skin tissues. The reduced blood flow may lead to tissue necrosis which ultimately develops into gangrene.
Wet gangrene can result from:
Deep wounds that develop bacterial infections can lead to gangrene. For example, you may get dry gangrene if you have faced a severe road accident and developed skin injury. Moreover, if the wounded area gets infected, it may lead to wet gangrene.
Dry gangrene can develop into wet gangrene due to infection. If the affected area becomes infectious, it may develop into wet gangrene.
A sudden blockage in the artery can lead to dry gangrene. However, if the artery develops an infection, it may develop into wet gangrene.
If you have weak immunity, you have a high chance of getting wet gangrene. It happens because the weak immune system cannot contain the infection properly. Moreover, if your immunity is compromised due to diabetes, alcohol or drug abuse, chemotherapy, and HIV, you may develop wet gangrene.
If you have the following medical conditions, your chances of getting gangrene increase. The medical conditions include:
In diabetes, your body does not produce optimum insulin levels or is resistant to insulin effects. Moreover, high blood sugar levels affect your blood vessels resulting in a reduced blood supply.
If you have developed clots in the blood vessels or have a hard or narrow artery, you may develop gangrene.
Severe injury or frostbite can damage your skin and the tissues beneath the skin. In addition, it may develop into gangrene due to the absence of proper blood flow in the affected area.
Chain smokers have a high chance of developing gangrene. In addition, tobacco may make your blood vessels narrow, leading to reduced blood flow.
Your extra body weight can suppress the arteries leading to an obstructed blood flow in the body. As the skin tissues do not get proper blood, they may not perform well. The deficiency can lead to a change in skin colour and develop into gangrene.
If you have undergone chemotherapy or radiotherapy and are infected with HIV, you have a high chance of developing wet gangrene. During this condition, your immune system becomes weak.
- Medications or drugs that are injected
Illegal drugs and certain medicines that need to be injected into the blood may harm the blood vessels. As a result, the ruptured blood supply may develop into gangrene.
Blood clotting during Covid is a common phenomenon. In addition, people may develop dry gangrene as a side effect of Covid-19.
Wet gangrene can spread to other delicate organs and tissues. Therefore, it is essential to take immediate medical care.
Physical examination and medical history are the preliminary requirements in gangrene diagnosis. First, a doctor looks at your medical history to find the exposure to infection or trauma. Then, if your doctor suspects gangrene, they may delve deeper and suggest further tests to determine gangrene type and extent.
The tests that are beneficial to diagnose gangrene include:
Blood tests help in diagnosing bacteria and other germs in the blood. For example, an abnormally high level of white blood cells indicates bacteria in your body.
A doctor takes a fluid sample from the blister. The sample is examined to look for the presence of bacteria in your body. Moreover, the doctor may look at the tissue samples under a microscope to diagnose dead cells.
X-rays, MRI, and CT scans are a few imaging techniques that diagnose gangrene. These tests capture the images of your bones, blood vessels, and delicate internal organs. In addition, the tests determine the extent of gangrene in your body.
Surgery provides a close look at the infected tissues. Then, a surgeon studies the spread of gangrene by performing surgery.
These tests and surgery provide a better understanding of your condition. Therefore, it is crucial to look at all aspects to understand the disease and its extent better.
Following a few suggestions can help in reducing the risk of gangrene. Here is a list of the tips:
- Take care of your diabetes
If you have diabetes, you must take care of the cuts and burns on your feet and hands. In addition, if you notice redness, swelling, and foul-smelling discharge from a blister, you must contact a doctor. Try to control your blood sugar levels by following preventive measures. Moreover, opt for a foot and hand examination at least once a year.
Weight loss can solve many health issues. For example, if you lose excess weight, you can reduce the risk of diabetes and blocked arteries. Excess weight puts pressure on your arteries leading to an obstructed blood flow. Moreover, you may develop a risk of infection and poor wound healing.
Tobacco can damage your blood vessels. If you use tobacco for a long time, you may not get a proper blood supply due to damaged blood vessels.
Take care of your wounds to prevent infection. Try to wash your wound and keep it clean.
- Be watchful of the temperature
People with gangrene may develop pale, stiff, and numb skin after getting prolonged exposure to cold. If you experience a drop in the temperature, you can look at your skin condition. In case of any abnormality, you can call your doctor right away.
In addition, you may use homeopathy medicines to control the infection spread. Homeopathy is a holistic approach to treat the underlying causes of disease. It believes in personalised treatment and develops a curated treatment plan. It brings you to the original health status by treating the grounds of a condition. For example, a homoeopath selects the medication for gangrene treatment based on the complaint's cause, sensation, and modalities. It is recommended to consult qualified homeopathy for your treatment.