Table of Contents
Causes of Gangrene and Symptoms
Gangrene – The death of tissue (necrosis) resulting from deprivation of BLOOD circulation to an area of the body.
Gangrene most commonly affects the digits (fingers and toes) and extremities (hands and feet).
FROSTBITE, PERIPHERAL VASCULAR DISEASE (PVD), NEPHROPATHY of DIABETES, severe INFECTION (such as clostridial infections and NECROTIZING FASCIITIS), and RAYNAUD’S SYNDROME are common causes of gangrene.
TESTICULAR TORSION in which a TESTICLE becomes strangulated (twisted such that its blood supply is cut off) can result in testicular gangrene. A strangulated HERNIA, which entraps a segment of bowel, can similarly result in intestinal gangrene. Gangrene can also affect internal organs that lose their blood supply, such as may occur with a major thromboembolism (blood clot in an ARTERY). Gangrene tends to progress as it consumes healthy tissue. Gangrenous tissue is characteristically black or greenish black and may have a foul odor. Because the tissue is dead, the person has no sensation of PAIN from the area though inflamed tissue at the periphery of the gangrenous tissue may cause intense pain.
Methods to improve blood circulation, such as thrombolytic medications to dissolve blood clots and vasodilator medications to dilate (widen) the arteries for increased blood flow, may restore enough circulation to allow the area to heal. Oxygen delivered under pressure in a hyperbaric chamber is sometimes successful in restoring enough oxygen to the tissues that they can begin to heal. Generally, however, the doctor must surgically remove all gangrenous tissue for HEALING to take place. Such removal may require AMPUTATION of the affected digit or limb. Often recovery is then complete, depending on the underlying cause for the gangrene. People who have diabetes, PVD, or peripheral neuropathy have increased risk for gangrene to develop in what would otherwise be minor wounds.