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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

Gangrene Symptoms

  • Dry gangrene:
    • The affected area becomes cold and numb.
    • Initially, the affected area becomes red.
    • Then, it develops a brown discoloration.
    • Finally, it becomes black and shriveled.
  • Wet or moist gangrene:
    • The affected area becomes swollen and decays.
    • It is extremely painful.
    • Local oozing occurs.
    • It produces a foul-smelling odor.
    • It becomes black.
    • The affected person develops a fever.
  • Gas gangrene:
    • The wound is infected.
    • A brown-red or bloody discharge may ooze from the affected tissues.
    • Gas produced by Clostridia may produce a crackling sensation when the affected area is pressed.
    • It becomes swollen, and blisters may develop.
    • Pain in the affected area is severe.
    • The affected person develops fever, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing if the toxins spread into the bloodstream.

Gangrene Causes

The following conditions are risk factors for the development of gangrene:

  • Injury or trauma, such as a crush injury, a severe burn, or frostbite
  • Diseases that affect the circulation of blood, such as arteriosclerosis, diabetes, smoking, or Raynaud's disease
  • Infection of wounds

Bacterial Infections 101 Types, Symptoms, and Treatments Slideshow

Bacterial Infections 101 Types, Symptoms, and Treatments Slideshow

Bacteria are microscopic, single-cell organisms that live almost everywhere. Bacteria live in every climate and location on earth. Some are airborne while others live in water or soil. Bacteria live on and inside plants, animals, and people. The word "bacteria" has a negative connotation, but bacteria actually perform many vital functions for organisms and in the environment. For example, plants need bacteria in the soil in order to grow.

The vast majority of bacteria are harmless to people and some strains are even beneficial. In the human gastrointestinal tract, good bacteria aid in digestion and produce vitamins. They also help with immunity, making the body less hospitable to bad bacteria and other harmful pathogens. When considering all the strains of bacteria that exist, relatively few are capable of making people sick.

REFERENCE:

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

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