Gangrene, which refers to the necrosis (death of tissues), is usually preceded by vascular disease and injuries or wounds. It can affect any part of the body, but the tissues at the extremities are at a higher risk of becoming necrotic than the others. Thus, the parts that are affected the most are fingers, hands, feet, and toes. Also, this condition is more common in the elderly people, and those with a weakened immune system. This is because people affected by chronic medical conditions are more susceptible to infections, as well as necrosis, which is a complication of infections. Usually, the treatment includes a complete antibiotic course, and if necessary, a surgical procedure for correcting the affected blood vessels.
This condition is classified into three types on the basis of the underlying cause. These include dry, moist, and gas gangrene. The first type is mainly attributed to restricted blood supply to the wounded areas, which can be due to trauma, blood vessel damage, and peripheral vascular disease. Moist and gas gangrene develop due to bacteria-infected wounds, which are left untreated for a certain period. In case of gas gangrene, the causal bacteria is Clostridia that produces toxic gas, and some categorize it as a subtype of moist gangrene.
Symptoms and Treatment
The signs and symptoms of this medical condition are also different, pertaining to the root cause or type. The commonly manifested symptoms are numbness, skin discoloration, swelling, and inflammation of the affected areas. The treatment should be started as early as possible, immediately after diagnosis. Otherwise, there would be a high risk of the medical condition spreading from the affected portion to the adjacent areas. Though the therapeutic intervention for all the three types would involve antibiotics and surgical incision, the doctor may recommend different treatment approaches. Here are the symptoms and treatment methods for each of the types:
This type is associated with localized pain and skin symptoms. Furthermore, it is devoid of infection signs like foul odor and unusual discharge, which are observed in the other two types. As stated earlier, it develops when the blood supply is cut off for a prolonged period. Thus, the treatment usually involves restoring the affected blood vessels. As per the severity of the condition, the doctor may suggest a surgery option for correcting the blood vessel problem. With the help of the correct treatment, the affected person can recover successfully from the condition.
Since infection is the vital cause of this type, the doctor may consider an intravenous antibiotic injection, as the first treatment approach. As a result of this, the risk of bacterial infections reduces considerably. Following this, a surgical procedure called debridement is conducted for removing the dead and damaged tissues. As per the needs of the affected person, painkillers are administered for providing relief from pain.
As compared to the dry and moist types, this is a more serious condition. An individual affected by this type, may develop high temperature and fever-like symptoms. It poses the risk of rapid spreading of the infection via the bloodstream, which over time can lead to organ damage. Administration of antibiotic injections followed by surgical debridement are the main treatment options. If necessary, the treatment may involve excision of severely infected fingers and toes.
An alternative method for the treatment of this medical condition is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in which the affected person is exposed to high concentration of oxygen (maintained at a higher pressure). This would promote the healing process of the affected tissues. Undoubtedly, the process of the necrosis of the tissues can be reversed, but timely treatment is required to prevent the worsening of the disease, and promoting the growth of the healthy tissues.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.