Gangrene is a rare but deadly medical illness that occurs when a part of the body’s blood supply is cut off. Without treatment, gangrene can lead to infection and death. Although gangrene can occur in any body part, it is most commonly seen in the extremities, such as the toes or fingers. This blog post will discuss the causes of gangrene, its symptoms, and treatment options. We will also look at ways to prevent gangrene from developing in the first place.
What is Gangrene?
Gangrene is a potentially fatal condition in which body tissue dies. Gangrene can occur in any tissue but most commonly affects the skin and underlying muscles.
Types of Gangrene
Gangrene is classified into two types: dry gangrene and wet gangrene. In dry gangrene, the tissue dies due to the interruption of the blood flow to the affected area. Wet gangrene occurs when the tissue is infected with bacteria, which can cause the tissue to swell and break down. Wet gangrene is usually more severe than dry and can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.
Causes of Tissue Death
The following scenarios can bring about the blood supply to the affected area.
- Poor circulation can also lead to gangrene. This can be caused by diabetes, peripheral artery disease, or Raynaud’s disease.
- Infection is another common cause of gangrene. Through a wound or surgery, bacteria can enter the body and grow, causing tissue death.
- Gangrene can also be caused by exposure to certain chemicals or toxins, such as gasoline, kerosene, and lye.
- Frostbite is another type of gangrene that can occur when the skin and tissues are exposed to extreme cold.
- Radiation therapy can also cause gangrene, damaging the blood vessels and preventing them from carrying oxygen to the tissues.
- Gangrene can also complicate certain diseases, such as diabetes, leprosy, and cancer.
- Finally, gangrene can be caused by physical trauma, such as a crushing injury.
Risk Factors for Gangrene
Several groups of people are at an increased risk of developing gangrene. These include:
People with Diabetes
Diabetes can cause nerve damage and poor blood circulation, increasing the risk of gangrene.
People with Peripheral Artery Disease
Raynaud’s disease is a condition that narrows the arteries that supply blood to the extremities, which can lead to gangrene.
Age-related changes in the body can lead to a decreased ability to fight off infection, increasing the risk of gangrene.
People with a weakened immune system
It includes those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or who are using immunosuppressant drugs.
Smoking decreases blood circulation and increases the risk of gangrene.
People who have had previous surgery
Surgical procedures can sometimes damage blood vessels or nerves.
People who have sustained trauma
Trauma to the extremities can crush blood vessels and nerves.
People who have had a previous infection
Bacterial infections can sometimes damage blood vessels or nerves.
Gangrene Incidents in Australia
Gangrene is a relatively rare condition in Australia, including Queensland, affecting only a small number of people each year. However, it can be serious if not treated promptly and correctly. Early diagnosis and treatment of gangrene are, therefore, essential.
CPR First Aid RTO 21903 is a leading provider of first aid training in Southport and other QLD locations. The theories and concepts are taught online, and physical classes are dynamic as part of the accredited courses. They have varied emergency scenarios to best prepare their participants when needed. Feel free to send us your enquiries about our courses.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
Medical attention should be sought immediately if a person experiences any of these signs or symptoms. Gangrene can spread quickly and lead to life-threatening complications, such as sepsis or death. The common signs and symptoms are:
- Skin that is pale, mottled, blue, or black
- Swelling in the affected area
- A feeling of numbness or tingling in the affected area
- Pain or a sense of pressure in the affected area
- Blisters or ulcers on the skin
- Foul-smelling drainage from the affected area
There are multiple treatments for gangrene, depending on the severity of the condition. If the gangrene is limited to a small skin area, it can be treated with antibiotics and dressings. More severe cases may require surgery to remove the dead tissue. In some cases, amputation may be necessary.
The goal of treatment for gangrene is to stop the spread of infection and promote healing. Thus it typically involves antibiotics in combination with these other procedures to clear the infection and surgery to remove the dead tissue.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a treatment in which a person inhales 100% pure oxygen inside a chamber pressurised to three times the normal atmospheric pressure.
HBOT increases the amount of oxygen in the blood, which can help to speed up the healing process and promote the growth of new blood vessels. It is often used to treat wounds that are not healing correctly, as well as infections and gangrene.
HBOT is an effective treatment for gangrene, mainly when the condition is caused by poor circulation or diabetes.
Debridement is the medical term for removing dead or damaged tissue from a wound. It is an essential part of the healing process, as it helps to prevent infection and promote new tissue growth. Gangrene is when the body’s tissues die due to a lack of blood flow. Debridement can treat gangrene, which removes the dead tissue and encourages recovery.
A course of antibiotics usually follows debridement to prevent infection. Surgery may also be necessary to repair any damage caused by the gangrene.
Amputation for gangrene is removing a part of the body, usually, a limb or digit, that has been severely infected with bacteria. Gangrene is often caused by poor circulation, which allows bacteria to grow and spread. Amputation is typically the last resort after all other methods (such as antibiotics and surgery) have failed.
While amputation may seem like a drastic measure, it is often the best way to save the life of a person with gangrene. Amputation can also help prevent the spread of infection to other parts of the body.
Treatment of gangrene can be lengthy and complicated, but it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible to improve the chances of a successful outcome.
How to Prevent Gangrene Development?
There are several ways to prevent gangrene, including:
- keeping the skin clean and free of cuts or scrapes
- prompt treatment of any wounds
- controlling diabetes and other conditions that can cause poor circulation
- not smoking
- eating a healthy diet
- exercising regularly
- avoiding exposure to cold temperatures
- wearing proper footwear
If a person has a situation that puts them at risk for gangrene, any wounds or infections must receive early medical attention.
First Aid for Gangrene
If you suspect someone has gangrene in an emergency, do these right away:
- Call triple zero (000) or your local Southport emergency number.
- Clean the wound and remove any dead tissue with sterile gauze.
- Apply a clean bandage to the wound.
- Elevate the affected limb to reduce swelling.
- Provide the person with pain relief medication if necessary.
- Transport the person to the hospital as soon as possible for further treatment.
Following the above first aid, steps can help to improve the person’s chances of recovery.
Acquiring a first aid certification at Southport 4215′ or ‘Cnr Ferry Rd and Cotlew St E, Southport 4215, can be done within a few hours with CPR First Aid. Our nationally accredited courses have been tailored and developed in a way to match the latest qualifications in the workplace. For more information, give us a call, and we’ll be happy to assist you.