What Is Gangrene?

Gangrene is the death of tissue in part of the body; this can occur when the body part loses its blood supply, which may happen after a serious Injury; due to a Blood Vessel Disease, such as Arteriosclerosis, also called Hardening of the Arteries, in your arms or legs; having Diabetes; or having a Suppressed Immune System, due to HIV or Chemotherapy; or even after Serious Surgery.

What To Look For?

The physical signs of Gangrene depend on the location and cause of the Gangrene; if the skin is involved, or the Gangrene is close to the skin, the symptoms may include Discoloration, such as blue or black if the skin is affected, or red or bronze if the affected area is beneath the skin; there may be a Loss of Feeling in the area, which may happen after a Severe Pain in the area; though, one of the most obvious signs is a Foul Smelling Discharge.

If the affected area is inside the body, such as Gangrene of the Gallbladder or Gas Gangrene, the symptoms may include, Confusion; Fever; Gas in Tissues beneath the skin; a general ill feeling; Low Blood Pressure or Persistent and Severe Pains.

What To Do?

If you notice any signs of Gangrene DO NOT DELAY, call your doctor immediately; if treatment is delayed and the Gangrene is extensive, or the person has other significant medical problems, they may die; however, if it is treated before the tissue damage is irreversible, it can be avoided; people with Diabetes, or blood vessel disease, should routinely examine their feet for any signs of injury, Infection, or change in skin color and seek immediate care as needed.

Medical Diagnosis:

Doctors should be able to diagnose Gangrene from a physical examination; in addition, the following tests and procedures could be used, such as an Arteriogram, a special x-ray to see any blockages in the blood vessels, to help plan treatment for blood vessel disease; Blood tests, the white blood cell count may be high; a CT scan, to examine the internal organs; a Culture of the tissue or fluid from wounds, to identify a bacterial Infection; an Examination of tissue under the microscope, to look for cell death and Surgery, to find and remove dead tissue.


All Gangrene requires urgent evaluation and treatment; in general, the dead tissue should be removed to allow healing of the surrounding living tissue and prevent any further Infection; depending on the area that has the Gangrene, the person's overall condition and the cause of the Gangrene, treatment may include Amputation of the body part; an emergency Operation to find and remove dead tissue; an Operation to improve the blood supply to the area; repeated Operations to remove dead tissue 'debridement'; treatment in the Intensive Care Unit, for severely ill patients; or if not too severe just Antibiotics.

Gangrene Of The Skin:

This is associated with the loss of blood supply to a particular area; in some instances, it is caused by bacterial Infection of an open sore or Ulceration; the most common form of Gangrene develops in the feet of people with Diabetes who also have associated loss of circulation in the feet and toes; though, any person with poor circulation can develop Gangrene.

A sudden onset of pain in the feet or legs associated with a decrease in skin temperature and color changes to the skin of the feet is a strong indication that there has been a sudden blockage of blood flow to the legs; this condition requires immediate medical attention; people who have Diabetes may not experience pain associated with such an event because of a condition called Diabetic Neuropathy; which affects the nerves of the feet and legs causing a diminished ability to perceive pain, excessive heat, cold, vibration, or excessive pressure.

This condition places people with Diabetes at greater risk of injury without their being aware of it; for example, a patient with Diabetes can develop an Ingrown Toenail and if they also have Diabetic neuropathy, they may not experience the same level of pain as someone without the neuropathy; as a consequence the Ingrown Toenail can worsen and become Infected, without providing the warning signs of pain; if the person with Diabetes also has poor circulation, the Infection, Septicemia can lead to Gangrene of the toe; this situation can ultimately lead to the Amputation of the toe, foot, or leg, depending upon how bad the circulation is in the leg.

Diabetes Related Information Leaflets

Go back.