Gangrene is a serious condition in which tissue dies as a result of a loss of blood supply. It can occur as a result of an injury, infection or a long-term condition that affects blood circulation.
Gangrene can affect anyone, particularly after a serious injury, but there are certain groups of people who are more at risk, such as those with long-term conditions that can affect the blood vessels. These conditions include:
- Diabetes – a condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to be too high
- Atherosclerosis – where arteries narrow and become clogged with a fatty substance known as plaque
- Peripheral arterial disease – where fatty deposits in the arteries restrict blood supply to leg muscles
- Raynaud's Condition – where blood vessels in certain parts of the body (usually the fingers or toes) react abnormally to cold temperatures
- Redness and swelling in the affected area
- A loss of sensation or severe pain in the affected area
- Sores or blisters in the affected area
In some cases, the affected limb may feel heavy and the skin may produce a crackling sound when presed. These symptoms are caused by a build-up of gas under the skin.
Treatment options for gangrene include:
- Surgery to remove damaged tissue
- Antibiotics to treat infection
- Amputation, in more severe cases
Anyone who suffers from diabetes, atherosclerosis and/or peripheral arterial disease should have regular check-ups on their feet. A low-fat diet and regular exercise will often improve blood supply, and smokers should quit the habit.