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Symptoms and Signs of Gangrene

Doctor's Notes on Gangrene

Gangrene is a condition that describes the death of the body’s tissues. Gangrene may occur in any part of the body with the most common sites being the fingers, hands, feet, and toes. Gangrene develops when the blood supply of the affected part is cut off as a result of infection, vascular disease, or trauma.

There are different types of gangrene. In this dry gangrene, the tissue dries up and falls off. In wet gangrene, the affected tissue swells up and blisters. In gas gangrene, bacteria infect the tissue and cause gas bubbles inside it.

Symptoms of dry gangrene involve the infected area, which first becomes red, then cold and numb, then it develops a brown discoloration, and finally, it becomes black and shriveled. Symptoms of wet or moist gangrene involve the infected area, which becomes swollen and decays. It is painful, with local oozing, a foul-smelling odor, and black discoloration. The person also develops a fever. Symptoms of gas gangrene include an infected wound, brown-red or bloody discharge oozing from the affected tissues, a crackling sensation produced by the gas when the affected area is pressed (crepitus), the area becomes swollen and blistered, and severe pain. Other symptoms of gas gangrene include fever, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing if the toxins spread into the bloodstream.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.