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Definition of Gangrene

Gangrene is the death of body tissue due to a lack of blood flow or a bacterial infection affecting your toes, fingers and limbs. It can also develop in your muscles and internal organs. The Patient is at a higher risk of developing gangrene if there is an existing condition that may damage blood vessels and affect blood flow. These conditions could include diabetes or atherosclerosis.

Symptoms of Gangrene

Signs and symptoms of when gangrene affects the skin are:

  • Skin discoloration that ranges from pale to blue, purple, black, bronze or red
  • A clear distinction between healthy and damaged skin
  • Severe pain
  • Feeling of numbness
  • A foul-smelling discharge leaking from a sore

When gangrene affects tissues beneath the surface of the skin, the signs and symptoms may include:

  • Painful and inflamed tissue
  • A fever
  • General feeling of ill health

A condition called septic shock can occur if a bacterial infection that originated in the gangrenous tissue spreads throughout the body. Its signs and symptoms include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Fever or less than normal body temperature
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath

Risk factors of Gangrene

Patients with the following conditions are at a higher risk of developing gangrene

  • Diabetes
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Serious injury
  • Surgery in the past
  • Smoker
  • Overweight or obese
  • HIV infection

Diagnosis of Gangrene

Tests used to help make a diagnosis of gangrene include:

  • Blood tests: An increase in white blood cell level in indicative of an infection
  • Imaging tests: These include an X-ray, a computerized tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, arteriogram in order to check how much the gangrene has spread in the body.
  • Surgery: Surgery may have to be performed to check the spread and damage that the gangrene may have done to the body.
  • Fluid or tissue culture: to check for signs of cell death

Treatment of Gangrene

Treatment for gangrene is divided into:

  • Medication: Antibiotics given intravenously for infection.
  • Oxygen therapy: hyperbaric oxygen therapy also may be used to treat gangrene.
  • Surgery: This includes the removal of the dead tissue and the healing and growth of the healthy tissue
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