What is Gangrene

What is Gangrene?

Gangrene is a type of tissue death which occurs due to damage or lack of oxygen supply to the body tissues. Gangrene is caused by various factors such as:

Trauma (a blow to the head)

Burning (fire, heat, chemicals)

High altitude (high altitudes cause high temperatures and burn the body faster)

Vaccination (vaccines are known to kill bacteria and viruses)

Drugs (drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, drugs like heroin or cocaine can cause organ failure)

Blood clots (caused by injury, deep vein thrombosis, blood clotting)

Cancer (body cannot regenerate dead cells quick enough to replace them)

Fungi (mold, mildew)

Bacteria (infections cause necrosis)

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Parasites (worms, ticks, tapeworms, infection by other types of organisms)

Viruses (HIV, West Nile Virus, Herpes)

What are the types of gangrene?

There are four main types of gangrene:

Dry gangrene occurs when blood flow is cut off to fingers, toes, limbs, or other extremities. This may be caused by injury, frostbite, or lack of blood supply to the affected area. Dry gangrene is described as being less serious than the other types of gangrene since dry gangrene can be treated through surgery to re-attach the dead tissue to the living tissue.

Wet gangrene occurs when an infected wound becomes necrotic and fills with puss, blood, and other infected liquids. Wet gangrene is a type of gangrene which spreads quickly since the infected liquid can easily flow through the body and infect other areas.

Gas gangrene is a type of wet gangrene which occurs when Clostridia bacteria infect an open wound. The bacteria release toxins which can damage nearby blood vessels and organs. The infection causes necrosis of the flesh, skin, and underlying tissue. Gas gangrene can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Meleney’s infection is a type of gangrene which also occurs from a Clostridia bacteria infection. Meleney’s infection is different from gas gangrene in that it has a slower progression and does not cause the necrotic damage which gas gangrene causes.

What are the symptoms of gangrene?

Gangrene is marked by the following symptoms:

Sensation of pins and needles


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Lack of sensation

Discoloration (skin turns pale or blue due to low blood flow)

Fluid build-up (oedema)

Loss of skin sensation

Lack of reaction or response to stimuli

Sensation of heat or cold


Wound that does not heal

Wound that is slow to heal

What is the gangrene treatment?

The gangrene treatment varies depending upon the cause of the gangrene. The type of gangrene will determine the treatment. For example, wet gangrene must be cleaned out to prevent infection. Dry gangrene is treated by re-attaching dead tissue. In some cases surgery is required. The location of the gangrene must also be taken into consideration. For example, gangrene in the hand can impair a person’s ability to work. Amputation may be necessary.

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The treatment of gangrene will also vary depending upon the patient’s overall health and age. Younger, healthier patients will heal faster than elderly patients who may not respond to the treatment as well.

What is trench foot?

Trench foot is a type of necrosis caused by exposure of the feet to repeated moisture and cold. This type of gangrene is caused by a deficiency in blood supply and not infection. Due to the cold and damp conditions in the trenches, many soldiers suffered from trench foot.

What are the symptoms of trench foot?

The symptoms of trench foot include the following:

Constant pain





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Loss of skin color (becomes blue or violet)

Loss of feeling

How does trench foot occur?

Trench foot develops from exposure of the feet to cold and moisture. This causes blood vessels to constrict, slowing blood flow to the feet. When the feet are repeatedly exposed to moisture and cold the lack of blood flow causes tissue death.

What is the trench foot treatment?

The trench foot treatment is focused on re-warming the feet and lessening the swelling. The patient’s feet are soaked in warm water for up to 15 minutes. The patient is also instructed to massage their feet to increase blood flow and prevent clots. In some cases the tissue which has died must be surgically removed. The success of this treatment depends upon how long the patient was exposed to moisture and cold.

What is sunburn?

Sunburn is a type of burn which occurs when skin is exposed to direct rays of the sun for extended periods of time. The longer the skin is exposed to the sun, the more likely it is to burn. Sunburn can occur even on partly cloudy days. This is because sunburn can cause the skin to burn even if the person cannot feel it. The sun’s rays damage skin by over-exposing it to ultraviolet rays.

What are the symptoms of sunburn?

Sunburn causes the skin to redden and burn. The skin will become painful and tender to touch. Sunburned skin becomes extremely sensitive to sunlight and is more likely to burn again. Sunburn may also cause blisters.

How does sunburn occur?

The sun’s rays are classified into three types:

UVA – causes more long-term damage

UVB – causes skin to redden

UVC – absorbed by the ozone layer, sometimes emitted by sun lamps

Sunburn occurs when UVB rays cause skin to redden. UVA rays can also contribute to the burning process, but do not cause reddening of the skin.

Sources & references used in this article:

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