Gangrene – Causes and Symptoms of Gangrene

Gangrene is a medical term that describes the dying or dead body tissue. It develops when the blood supply to the tissue is either inadequate or lost. The blood supply is cut off as a result of trauma, vascular diseases or infections. Gangrenes most commonly appear in areas of hands, fingers, feet and toes and rarely in areas of muscles and internal organs.

There are five main types of gangrene. Wet gangrene, dry gangrene, gas gangrene, internal gangrene, fournier’s gangrene depending on the cause and location of gangrene.

Causes of Gangrene
Gangrene occurs as a result of tissue injury leading to loss of blood supply. The blood usually provides oxygen and nutrients to the cells. Hence, without a proper blood supply, cells cannot live. Any process that affect the blood supply lead to gangrene. The types of gangrene and their causes are:

Dry gangrene – Occurs commonly in people with the disease atherosclerosis. Dry gangrene is characterized by shrivel and dry skin that develops slowly. It appears in colors ranging from brown to purple blue to black.

Wet gangrene – Occurs in people with diabetes. It develops after an injury, frostbite or severe burn. Wet gangrene is characterized by swelling, blistering and wet appearance.

Gas gangrene – This is caused by an infection with bacteria, Clostridium perfringens that develops in an injury or a surgical wound. The bacteria produces toxins that release gas and cause tissue damage. Gas gangrene appears normal initially. But as the condition progresses, skin becomes grey to purple red color and appears bubbly. It causes life threatening problems.

Internal gangrene – Occurs when the blood flow to internal organs is blocked. The organs include appendix and intestines. Gangrene is bulged and becomes twisted. It is characterized by severe pain and fever.

Fournier’s gangrene – Occurs as a result of infection in urinary tract and genital areas. Men are more prone to fournier’s gangrene than women. It is characterized by swelling, redness, tenderness and genital pain.

Symptoms of Gangrene
Signs and symptoms of gangrene depend on the cause and location of gangrene. If the gangrene appears on the skin, the symptoms include:

  • Loss of feeling in the area
  • Foul smelling discharge
  • Discoloration of the affected area

If the gangrene appears inside the body, the symptoms include:

  • Severe and persistent pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • Ill feeling in the body
  • Tissues filled with gas
  • Fever
  • Confusion

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