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What is Gangrene?

Gangrene is characterized by tissue death due to the lack of oxygen-rich blood flow to a specific part of the body. This condition usually occurs in the extremities such as the fingers, toes, arms, and legs, but can also occur in the internal tissues. Urgent treatment is required to prevent serious illness or even death.

Causes of Gangrene

Causes of gangrene include:

  • Lack of blood supply
  • Bacterial infection of wounds
  • Crushing injuries
  • Vascular problems due to diabetes, high blood pressure, and peripheral arterial disease
  • Blockage in an artery due to plaque formation

Risk Factors for Gangrene

Some of the risk factors for gangrene include:

  • Poor immunity
  • Smoking
  • Intravenous drug use
  • Increased alcohol intake

Symptoms of Gangrene

Symptoms of gangrene include:

  • Discoloration of skin over the affected region
  • Blister formation with foul-smelling pus
  • Shedding of skin and a clear line of demarcation between the affected tissue and healthy tissue
  • Pain followed by loss of sensation
  • Inability to move the affected part

Diagnosis of Gangrene

Your doctor will examine the affected body part, discuss your symptoms, and may order one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests: These may be ordered to detect the presence of bacteria or increased white blood cells, indicating infection.
  • Imaging tests: CT and MRI scans may be ordered to detect the spread of infection and identify the presence of blocked arteries.
  • Biopsy: A small sample of the tissue is collected to identify the presence of any bacterial infection or necrotic tissue.
  • Fluid culture: The fluid discharge from the gangrene is collected and cultured to detect the presence of bacteria.

Treatment for Gangrene

Treatment for gangrene is based on the location and severity of the condition and includes:

  • Antibiotics: Your doctor will introduce antibiotics intravenously to treat the infection.
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: In this method, high-pressure oxygen is supplied to the wounds to stimulate the formation of new blood vessels.
  • Surgery: Your doctor will remove the dead tissue and, in some cases, amputate the affected body part to prevent further spread of the gangrene.
  • Revascularization: This is a procedure to restore blood flow in blocked veins and arteries. It can help heal wounds caused by lack of blood supply and prevent serious complications.

Prevention of Gangrene

The following measures may help prevent the development of gangrene:

  • Regularly get a health check to ensure that your blood pressure and blood sugar levels are normal.
  • Promptly treat any wounds to mitigate the risk of infection.
  • Avoid or minimize smoking and alcohol consumption.
  • Maintain healthy body weight.
  • Do not treat corns and calluses yourself.
  • Avoid walking barefoot.
  • Cleanse your feet regularly with warm water and soap.
  • American Board of Internal Medichine
  • American Board of Vascular Medicine
  • Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions