Gangrene is a potentially life threatening condition that arises when a considerable mass of body tissue dies (necrosis). This may occur after an injury or infection or in people suffering from chronic health problems affecting blood circulation. The primary cause of gangrene is reduced blood supply to the affected tissues which results in cell death. Diabetes and long term smoking
increases the risk of gangrene.
Gangrene usually affects your extremities—the areas farthest from your heart—such as your toes and fingers. However, it can affect other parts of our body as well. Gangrene can even affect ones internal organs.
The condition typically starts in a specific body part, such as a leg, hand, or internal organ. If left untreated, it can spread through one’s body and cause one to go into shock. Shock is a condition marked by a variety of symptoms including low blood pressure. Shock can be life threatening and is considered a medical emergency.
It is a medical emergency that could lead to amputations and could even kill you. The sooner one recognizes and treats the condition, the better one’s outlook.
There are different types of gangrene with different symptoms such as dry gangrene, wet gangrene,
gas gangrene, internal gangrene and necrotizing fasciitis.
The doctor may suspect that one has gangrene based on one’s medical history and symptoms. He or she may also use a combination of additional diagnostic methods to determine one’s condition.
Lab Analysis of Tissue or Fluid Samples: A scraping of tissue from the affected body part may be examined with a microscope to look for dead cells. If one has blisters, a sample of the fluid
from a blister can be checked for the bacteria that cause gas gangrene.
Blood Tests: If one’s white blood count is higher than usual, this could indicate that one has a gangrenous infection.
Medical Imaging: Some kinds of imaging are helpful in diagnosing the spread of gangrene in the internal tissues. These tests could include X-rays, MRI scans, or CT scans.
If doctors suspect that the gangrene is related to a circulatory problem, an arteriogram might be performed. This test uses X-rays to monitor the flow of a special dye through arteries, showing whether any arteries are blocked
Treatment options include debridement (or in severe cases amputation) of the affected body parts, antibiotics, vascular surgery, maggot therapy or hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Debridement is medical removal of dead, damaged or infected tissue to improve the healing potential of the
remaining healthy tissues.
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