Gangrene is the term used for tissue death in part of the body. The most common sites for gangrene include the toes, fingers, feet and hands, but it can affect any part of the body. There are two major types of gangrene:

* Dry gangrene, which is caused by reduced blood flow through the arteries. Without sufficient oxygen, the cells die.

* Wet or moist gangrene is a complication of an untreated, infected wound. Inflammation from the infection restricts blood flow to the area, and the lack of blood flow makes it easier for the bacterial infection to invade the muscles.

* Gas gangrene is a type of wet gangrene that is caused by a specific bacteria, clostridia.

Symptoms and Complications

The symptoms of gangrene vary based on the type of gangrene.

Dry gangrene:

* Area is cold and numb

* Affected area becomes red, then develops brown discoloration and finally turns black and shriveled

Wet or moist gangrene:

* Affected area becomes swollen and painful

* Oozing from the affected area

* Foul-smelling odor

* Area turns black

* Fever

Gas gangrene:

* Wound infection

* Brownish-red or bloody discharge from tissues

* Crackling sensation when area is pressed

* Swelling

* Severe pain in affected area

* Fever, increased heart rate, rapid breathing if poisons spread to bloodstream

Risk Factors and Causes

Gangrene is caused by reduced or restricted blood flow to an area of the body. The risk factors for gangrene include:

* Injury: tissues compromised by injury are at risk of gangrene, particularly crush injuries, frostbite and burns

* Circulatory problems: conditions that affect circulation, such as diabetes, arteriosclerosis, Raynaud’s disease and smoking tobacco

* Infection of wounds: infected wounds can become gangrenous if they are not properly cleaned and treated.

People with diabetes or peripheral artery disease are most prone to gangrene. It’s vital that people with circulatory issues routinely examine their feet and extremities for injury or any changes in skin color that could signal the start of gangrene.


Gangrene requires urgent treatment to prevent its spread. Antibiotics and surgery are the primary treatments used against gangrene, though the preferred treatment varies depending on the cause and type of gangrene involved. Gangrene treatment nearly always involves hospitalization. The main aim of treatment for gangrene is to stop cell death and prevent further compromise in function. Too often, the only treatment is amputation of the affected area of the body.

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