Even though very rare, necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria, as the name suggests, is a very severe and dreadful disease. It can target anyone and anywhere, hence, it is very important to understand the disease and its symptoms.
This is an infection of flesh-eating bacteria (there are many bacteria which can cause this disease including bacteria known as Group A Streptococcus, which is found in the throat of many people, vibrio vulnificus bacteria found in the intestine, etc.) that attacks soft tissues and a sheath of tissues that cover the muscles known as fascia. The infection-causing bacteria can enter a patient’s body through any means on several occasions, such as surgery, trauma, if a person touches anything that has the bacteria on it, etc.
The life cycle of the bacteria in the patient’s body includes infection, growth, and fast reproduction. The toxins and enzymes produced by the bacteria destroy the tissues, and the fascia in the body and the tissues become gangrenous. The gangrenous tissues are harmful for the patient’s health, and can cause death within 24 hours. Hence, it is very important to remove the infected tissues (gangrenous tissues) from the patient’s body.
Necrotizing fasciitis can be visible on the surface when the bacteria start destroying tissues and fascia that are near the skin surface or around any bruise or cut. The patient may experience the following symptoms (if necrotizing fasciitis is underneath the skin, it can become very hard to tell all the symptoms).
- The person experiences unbearable pain in the area that is infected and where the bacteria is active.
- Patient may experience nausea and confusion.
- High fever.
- Extremely low blood pressure due to the confusion and other problems.
- Dehydration due to the existence of toxins and enzymes produced by the bacteria in the body.
- The infected area becomes red, starts swelling and patient experiences burning sensation in that region.
Diagnosis is done based on the symptoms the patient is experiencing and a blood sample test. Sample of the infected tissues can also be taken for a biopsy. Many times, the symptoms are misunderstood with those of other diseases if necrotizing fasciitis is spreading under the skin and not visible outside. This may lead to a delay in treatment and possible death of the patient.
As there is no vaccine available against this bacteria, it is very important to remove the infected tissues by surgery. If the disease is diagnosed in its preliminary stage, i.e., before it starts spreading deeper, surgical removal of the infected tissues can save an infected individual. If the disease has spread deeper and to a larger part of the body, limb amputation may be required to be carried out. Along with the surgery, medication (antibiotics) is very important to help the patient fight the infection and strengthen the immune system.
You should immediately consult your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms enlisted above. All those who come in contact with a patient suffering from this disease, those who are suffering from chronic diseases, and people who have a weakened immune system should be careful about the possible infection, and if possible, they should consult a doctor about the same.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.