All you need to know about gangrene skin disease

Do you have scaly skin with pus inside? Does that affect part have a changed coloration than the rest of your skin? If you see these signs, you probably have gangrene that requires immediate treatment. Gangrene is the condition where your body tissues begin to die, due to lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. It may also happen if you have any bacterial infection attacking your skin cells. Gangrene majorly targets the lower parts of your body, such as the limbs or toes. However, it may affect your fingers, as well as internal organs and muscles in adverse cases.

Your odds of being affected with gangrene becomes even higher when you have certain underlying health disorders affecting blood circulation. Such health issues may be diabetes or atherosclerosis (also known as hardened arteries). When it comes to treating gangrene, your dermatologist may just conduct surgeries to get rid of dead cells. Other treatment options involve hyperbaric oxygen therapy and certain antibiotics. The prognosis for your treatment and subsequent recovery is effective and finer if you diagnose gangrene at early stages.

What are the possible signs?

You may experience the following symptoms and signs when gangrene attacks your body tissues:

  1. Discoloration of your skin- the natural color of your healthy skin starts changing into pale colors. This is the time when you know that something is not right. From pale coloration, the skin color will change to blue, then black, next to purple and red (or bronze). These colors majorly depend on the kind of gangrene formed on your skin.
  2. The appearance of blisters and inflammation of your skin, with or without fluid within the tissues.
  3. A very clear line that well distinguishes your damaged skin, from your healthy skin cells.
  4. Thin skin layer, appearing shiny without any hair.
  5. Excessive pain in the affected area, which later gives you a sensation of numbness.
  6. On touching the area of damaged skin, you will feel a cold surface.
  7. From the sore part, you will notice a stinking fluid or pus discharge leaking out of it.
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If you have internal or gas gangrene where infection reaches beneath your underlying skin tissues, you may experience:

  • An extremely swollen and sore skin surface.
  • A slightly feverish condition, or a general feeling of weakness.

Sometimes the bacterial infection can spread from the area of gangrene on your skin to other parts of the body. This condition is known as a ‘septic shock’. The signs that you should look for during this condition are:

  • Speedy heart rate
  • Reduced blood pressure level
  • A state of confusion all the time
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty in breathing properly
  • A possible fever, where the temperature of your body goes down than normal temperature (36°C or 96.8 F)

When should you call a doctor?

If you are suffering from gangrene, do not waste time for treatment. Gangrene is a very serious skin problem that requires immediate attention and cure. Without any hesitation, call the doctor if you ever feel the experience and persisting signs or unexplained swelling and pain in any body part. Look for:

  • Persistent fever.
  • Skin color changes in lesions or blisters.
  • Pain in a site of injury, trauma or surgery, all of a sudden.
  • Skin becomes pale, scaly or hard and cold, accompanied by numbness.
  • Unclean or stinking pus oozing out from a sore

What are the different categories of gangrene?

  1. Dry gangrene

As the name suggests, your skin appears to be extremely dry and scaly. Your skin color in the affected area will change from pale brown to black or purplish blue. Dry gangrene usually develops at a slower pace. It will happen if you have any diseases related to arterial blood vessels, like atherosclerosis or diabetes.

  1. Wet gangrene

This kind of gangrene has a bacterial infection within the skin tissues, which is why you call it ‘wet’. Blisters and inflammation at the site of infection are the common signs of wet gangrene. You may develop wet gangrene if you have recently experienced any skin burn, injury or frostbite. If you are diabetic and have injured your toe accidentally, you are more prone to developing wet gangrene. Remember that wet gangrene spreads very fast to different parts of your body. You need to be extremely careful as this kind of gangrene needs instant treatment, or otherwise, it may be fatal.

  1. Gas gangrene
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It mainly affects the muscle tissues that are deep inside. At initial stages, your skin surface will appear completely normal. As the diseases advances, the skin at the affected region starts appearing grey or reddish purple in color. You may experience a bubble on the skin as it becomes quite prominent with time. Every time you press the infected region, you will hear a crackling sound. Gas gangrene is usually caused by a bacterium called Clostridium perfringens. It grows in an injured or surgical area that lacks blood supply. The bacteria grow with the leak of toxic gas from the infected region, hence the name ‘gas’ gangrene. It is extremely dangerous and life-threatening.

  1. Internal gangrene

It mostly targets your internal organs such as the appendix, gall bladder or intestine. When these organs do not enough oxygen supply from blood vessels due to any blockage, you suffer from internal gangrene. This is very painful and a severe kind. If you leave it untreated for a long time, it may prove fatal for you.

  1. Fournier’s gangrene

This kind of gangrene affects your reproductive organs. If you have any infection in your urinary tract or genitals, you get Fournier’s gangrene. Signs include- redness, pain, swelling, tenderness in genital organs.


  1. Take good care of your health if you are diabetic, by maintaining proper blood glucose level.
  2. Wash and clean open wounds with water to stay away from infections.
  3. Lose body weight to avoid diabetes, indirectly eradicating chances of gangrene.
  4. Beware of the drop in temperature to keep a distance from frostbite-induced gangrene.
  5. Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.

Reach out for help from your doctor, in case you see signs of gangrene. Do not delay in treatment.

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