Gangrene: What You Should Know

Gangrene: What You Should Know
It is no secret that having good blood circulation is an important part of maintaining good overall health. After all, your body can't function without the help of oxygen-rich blood flowing through its organs and tissues. But what happens when blood flow to a certain part of your body stops? Here's what you should know about identifying and treating gangrene before scheduling your next appointment with the friendly team at the Vascular Institute of the Rockies.
What is Gangrene?
Gangrene is a serious medical condition that occurs when body tissue dies as a result of a bacterial infection or a lack of adequate arterial blood circulation. It can develop in many areas of the body but is most commonly found in a person's limbs, including on their fingers or toes. It can also affect a person internally, such as on their muscles or organs.
What Does Gangrene Look Like?
When gangrene develops on an external area of a person's body, common symptoms could include:
  • Skin discoloration: the area could be a wide range of colors, including red, purple, blue, grey, or even black
  • Blisters
  • Swelling
  • Discharge coming from the wound with an unpleasant odor
  • Skin that is thin, shiny, and/or without hair
  • Skin that feels cold
  • Sudden pain and/or a loss of feeling
If gangrene is caused by an infection that spreads to other areas of the body, it may lead to septic shock. If this occurs, you may experience additional symptoms, such as:
  • Fever
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
What Are the Health Implications of Gangrene?
Gangrene will not go away on its own. It is a serious medical condition that should be taken seriously and requires immediate medical attention. If gangrene is left untreated, other areas of your body could be negatively affected by the spread of bacteria. In some cases, amputation may be necessary.

How Does One Get Gangrene?
Any event or condition that causes a lack of blood flow to a particular area of your body can lead to gangrene. Common causes of a loss of adequate blood flow include:
  • Medical conditions that impact your circulation, such as atherosclerosis or peripheral artery disease
  • Infection
  • Severe wounds or injuries
What Are the Remedies for Gangrene?
Unfortunately, if an area of your body has been affected by gangrene, it typically cannot be recovered. Because of this, it is very important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible if you notice any of the symptoms of gangrene. Early treatment can help prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of your body. Treatments for gangrene depend on where it's located, what is its cause, and how severe it is. These could include:
  • Medications: Usually antibiotics (used to treat bacterial infections) and pain medications.
  • Surgery: This could be to remove affected tissues, restore blood flow to an affected area, amputate infected body parts, or restore the appearance of scars caused by gangrene.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: This 90-minute procedure can sometimes help your blood carry more oxygen throughout your body, helping your wounds heal faster and slow down the progression of bacteria that are living in tissue without enough oxygen.

While gangrene can lead to serious complications that can have long-term effects on your health, the good news is that it can be successfully treated when caught early. If you notice any unusual signs in the way your skin looks or feels, don't wait to seek professional medical care. Time is of the essence when it comes to preventing the spread of infection and restoring blood flow to the affected area(s) of your body. For more tips on protecting and improving your blood circulation, visit the Vascular Institute of the Rockies online today!
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