If you're experiencing numbness and discoloration in your extremities, or have a sore on your foot or hands that is emitting an odor, then you could have gangrene. Gangrene is a serious infection that not only can cause you to lose your digits and limbs, it is potentially fatal if not immediately treated. It's important to know the signs early for more successful treatment. Here are some of the signs and causes of gangrene to help you identify the potential problem as soon as possible.
What is Gangrene?
Gangrene is the condition where body tissue dies because it is severely infected or has a loss of blood flow. Generally, it affects the areas farthest away from your heart like your fingers and toes. A more rare form can also cause problems in your internal organs. While it can affect anyone at any age, it generally is a problem for older adults.
What are the Symptoms of Gangrene?
In the early stages, you may only feel a constant numbness in your toes or fingers that may or may not be accompanied by pain. Later, the tissue in the area will appear clearly discolored and feel cold to the touch. You may also see swelling and hear a popping sound while pressing on the area. If you have a wound in the area, it may emit a foul odor or appear not to be healing.
What Causes Gangrene?
One of the most common causes is lack of circulation in the affected area. This can be caused by certain health conditions, such as diabetes or Raynaud's disease, or by lifestyle habits such as a poor diet, smoking, or excessive alcohol use. Seriously infected wounds can also allow bacteria to enter the body and cause gangrene.
How is Gangrene Treated?
If caught early, then all you may need is antibiotics or time in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. If the problem is caused by a permanent lack of circulation, such as damaged arteries, then you may need stints or surgery to restore normal blood flow. If the gangrene has progressed, then the dead tissue will need to be removed including the complete removal of a digit, entire foot, hand, or limb.
Gangrene is a serious and could be fatal if the infection turns into sepsis and gets into the bloodstream. Luckily, it can be treated if caught early. While gangrene can be detected by your regular doctor, the symptoms can come on quickly and you may not notice the problem until you're in need of immediate attention. If your regular physician is not available, then an urgent care facility, like Meadowbrook Urgent Care, can help you treat this problem in a timely manner.