Gangrene refers to the death of body tissue due to a lack of blood flow or a bacterial infection. Gangrene most commonly affects the extremities, including your toes, fingers and limbs, but it can also occur in your muscles and internal organs.
Your chances of developing gangrene are higher if you have an underlying condition that can damage your blood vessels and affect blood flow, such as diabetes or atherosclerosis.
Treatments for gangrene include surgery to remove dead tissue, antibiotics and other approaches. The prognosis for recovery is better if gangrene is identified early and treated quickly.
When gangrene affects your skin, signs and symptoms may include:
If you have a type of gangrene that affects tissues beneath the surface of your skin, such as gas gangrene or internal gangrene, you may notice that:
A condition called septic shock can occur if a bacterial infection that originated in the gangrenous tissue spreads throughout your body. Signs and symptoms of septic shock include:
When to see a doctor
Gangrene may occur due to one or both of the following:
Types of gangrene
Gangrene of the hand and foot
Gangrene results when blood flow to a certain area of your body is interrupted, causing tissue decay and death. Gangrene often affects the fingers or toes. ...
Several factors increase your risk of developing gangrene. These include:
Gangrene can lead to scarring or the need for reconstructive surgery. Sometimes, the amount of tissue death is so extensive that a body part, such as your foot, may need to be removed.
Gangrene that is infected with bacteria can spread quickly to other organs and may be fatal if left untreated.
Preparing for your appointment
Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of gangrene. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be told to go to the emergency department or to call 911 or your local emergency number for medical help.
If you have time before you leave home or on the way to the hospital, use the information below to get ready for your medical evaluation.
What you can do
Prepare a list of questions so that you can make the most of your time with your doctor. For gangrene, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Tests used to help make a diagnosis of gangrene include:
Treatments and drugs
Tissue that has been damaged by gangrene can't be saved, but steps can be taken to prevent gangrene from progressing. These treatments include:
Other treatments for gangrene may include supportive care, including fluids, nutrients, and pain medication to relieve your discomfort.
Older people, those who are immunocompromised, those who have underlying conditions, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis or some cancers, and those who have advanced cases of gangrene by the time they seek treatment are most likely to have complications from gangrene.
Here are a few suggestions to help you reduce your risk of developing gangrene:
Last Updated: 2011-08-10
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