June 15, 2024

What is gangrene and symptoms of gangrene?

Gangrene is a pathology that manifests itself after a blockage of the blood supply to one or more tissues, followed by necrosis and decomposition of the latter. Although the internal organs and muscles are not at risk, the hands and feet are commonly affected.

People who suffer from diabetes, arteriosclerosis and other disorders that affect the blood vessels are more exposed to the risk of developing gangrene.

Gangrene can be of different types:

Dry gangrene – is characteristic of diabetes and arteriosclerosis and is usually caused by a lack of blood supply to a limb or tissue, which is gradually reduced. It does not imply a bacterial attack.

Moist or wet gangrene is caused by a bacterial proliferation that enters the body taking advantage of the presence of an untreated and infected wound to prosper; also, in this case, it is characterized by ischemia (absence of blood to the affected area).

Gas Gangrene – Caused by the spread of toxins generated by bacteria attacking an open wound.

Prognosis of the disease

The prognosis can be fatal if gangrene is not diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

In the case of wet gangrene, the progression of the disease is relatively rapid. It can lead to septicemia or a general body infection, which is often fatal if it triggers septic shock.

If affected by bacterial infection, dry gangrene can transform into wet gangrene and be subject to the same complications.

The limb affected by gangrene may need to be removed, or skin resections of varying sizes may need to be performed.

symptoms of gangrene

When a limb or the skin is affected by gangrene, the symptoms are as follows:

The skin turns black, green, brown, or bright red

The wound emits purulent fluid or blood and is visibly infected

The affected limb or tissue loses feeling

In dry gangrene, the skin or stem is black, dry, and withered

In the case of wet gangrene, the following phenomena can be observed:

Tissue is distended, soft, and swollen

The affected part emits a foul odor

In the case of gas gangrene, the following symptoms are manifested:


fast heartbeat

Accelerated breathing



I was feeling lightheaded and confused.


Gas in the subcutaneous tissues


Diagnosis of gangrene

The most widespread diagnostic modalities are the following:

Objective tissue analysis

Blood draw (gangrene produces an excess of white blood cells)

Bone scan


Nuclear magnetic resonance

Biopsy of the pus discharged from the wound or of a tissue sample.

Arteriogram – can help identify which vein has become blocked and caused gangrene.

What are the causes of gangrene?

The leading causes of gangrene are:



Bacterial infections

High-intensity trauma causing extensive wounds






Other cardiovascular diseases that can cause blockage of some arteries

Can it be prevented?

Patients who have diabetes have to undergo frequent controls to measure glycemic levels and avoid blockage of blood flow; they also have to pay attention to each small wound, which must be carefully disinfected.

During the winter, it’s a good idea to stay out of the excessive cold or to wear thick socks and gloves.

Treatments for gangrene

The sooner a case of gangrene is intervened, the greater the chances of resolving it without consequences. Otherwise, the result could be more severe or lead to death.

Antibiotic treatment: particularly effective in the case of wet gangrene.

Surgical treatment: if the gangrene is at an early stage, the already necrotic tissues are removed; if the infection is already advanced, an organic resection should be performed; if the limb is already irretrievable, it must be amputated.

Revascularization: Through the combined use of surgical or minimally invasive endovascular revascularization and drugs that promote vasodilation, an adequate blood supply is restored to the affected tissue or limb.

Permanence in a hyperbaric chamber is particularly effective in the case of gas gangrene or, in some cases, wet gangrene.