Gangrene is an infection that usually occurs due to a wound or injury in any part of the body, and a resultant stoppage of blood flow to that area.
The usual symptoms of this condition being change in the color of skin, severe pain, a slow healing wound or a fever, this need to be diagnosed and treated immediately, as it may even lead to serious consequences such as amputation of the body partsor even to death.
What Is Gangrene?
When a body tissue dies due to improper blood supply, this condition is known as gangrene. The cells in the tissues need oxygen to be alive and this is supplied to them through the supply of blood. When the blood supply is interrupted either due to an injury, infection or any other diseases that interfere with the arterial blood flow, these tissues are deprived of oxygen, consequently leading to gangrene infection.
Types Of Gangrene
This kind of gangrene is more common among diabetic patients and in those suffering from auto immune diseases. Dry gangrene is usually not infected and it occurs due to improper blood circulation. The extreme parts of the body such as legs and hands are the ones that are usually affected by a dry gangrene.
This kind of gangrene is more harmful and needs quick attention. A wet gangreneis generally infected and involves formation of pus.
Conditions that usually lead to wet gangrene are wounds, burns and traumatic injuries, which cause a stoppage of blood supply to the affected area, thereby leading to bacterial growth and infection. The infection of the wet gangrene progresses very rapidly and it spreads throughout the body. If left untreated this may cause death of the patient.
Yet a rare condition but a most dangerous one, a gas gangrene can develop in the muscles and organsas a result of traumatic injuries.
It is termed as gas gangrene because the infection is caused by bacteria known as clostridia, which usually grows in the absence of oxygen and releases harmful toxins and gases inside the affected area. This is considered a very serious condition, and it may lead to deathif not treated immediately.
When gangrene affects the internal organssuch as appendix or colon it is known as an internal gangrene.
This is also one of the rare conditions, which is usually found more in men than women. In this kind of gangrene, the genitals get infected and it may lead to sepsis causing dangerous consequences.
Causes Of Gangrene
Though the main cause of gangrene is attributed to the loss of blood supply to the tissues, there are many other factors which lead to this condition. Some of the factors leading to gangrene are diabetes, atherosclerosis, smoking, peripheral vascular diseases, frostbite, injuriesor trauma and infection.
Risk Factors Of Gangrene
Diabetic patients are at more risk to develop gangrene, and especially dry gangrene. Due to the high blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, the blood vessels are damaged and when such a person is injured, he/she is easily affected by a gangrene infection.
People who undergo serious traumatic injuries such as crush injuries, burn injuriesand accidents are also at risk to be effected by gangrene.
Diseases such as atherosclerosis and other peripheral vascular diseases cause blood clot, and this impedes the blood supply in the body making the patient vulnerable to a gangrene infection.
Surgeries are also one of the risk factors of gangrene, particularly a wet gangrene, as there are much chances of contracting an infection during surgical processes.
Patients suffering from HIV are considered to have a weak immunity, and this may be a factor of risk to develop gangrene. They usually get infected of gangrene while receiving treatments such as organ transplantsor radiotherapy.
Smokers normally suffer from narrowed blood vessels and this causes an interruption in the free flow of blood into the various parts of the body. Thus, smokers are also at risk to contract gangrene.
A high cholesterol level also causes the blood to clot and this stops the oxygen supply to the tissues, thereby paving way for the multiplication of gangrene causing bacteria.
Aging increases the risk of contracting infectionsand a gangrene infection is found in common among people of old age.
Signs And Symptoms Of Gangrene
A dry gangrene usually starts with the symptoms of the skin becoming red in the affected area, which then turns into brown and consequently turns to black. The affected area becomes dry and shrunk and gradually sloughs off on its own. During this process, the patient may feel numbness and cold in the affected areaand he/ she might or might not feel pain.
On the other hand, a wet gangrene starts with extreme pain in the affected region with accompanied swelling. This gradually develops into sores and foul smelling pus starts forming in it. The patient might feel the symptoms of fever and sepsis and the affected area turns into black.
If the wet gangrene is a gas gangrene, then along with these symptoms one may find a cracking sensation on pressing the affected area. Wet gangrene infections, if left unattended may lead to sepsis. If a person is under a septic shock, he/she may show signs of change in the body temperature, inability to breathe, high rate of heartbeat, low blood pressure, confusion and body pain. This condition is reported to be more serious and needs an emergency treatment.
Treatments For Gangrene
Generally, the following treatments are provided to treat gangrene.
It is a surgical process involving the removal of the dead tissue.
Administration of antibiotics helps in controlling the infection.
This is an extreme kind of treatment which is resorted to as a last option, if the infection is severe and untreatable.
This kind of treatment is administered for wet gangrene, especially a gas gangrene. A patient is put into a high pressure oxygen filled chamber and the supply of oxygen is forced into his tissues.
This process stops the infection causing anaerobic bacteria from multiplying. Though gangrene is curable, the best way to treat it is to be alert and visit a doctor at once, once you find any of the initial symptoms of the gangrene infection.