Gangrene is a disease that causes the death of body tissue (like skin, muscle, or organs). Though it might sound like an outdated disease, it is one that people can and still do suffer from every day. 

Gangrene moves very quickly, and if it isn’t diagnosed and treated in time, it can be deadly. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about the condition, its causes, and potential treatments.

What Causes Gangrene?

Gangrene doesn’t spontaneously manifest; it develops as a result of another condition, including any of the following:

Loss of Blood Supply

Your body cannot survive without oxygen, so if a part of your body is cut off from blood flow, it may not receive enough oxygen to survive. 

As such, gangrene is more likely to develop if you have a condition that causes problems with blood flow, such as diabetes, Raynaud’s disease, or peripheral artery disease. Frostbite and many types of burns can also cut off blood flow and cause gangrene as a result.


Mild skin infections will usually heal without incident if treated properly. However, if you have a severe bacterial infection that isn’t treated immediately, it may end up killing off the surrounding tissue, causing gangrene.

Traumatic Injuries

If you sustain a severe injury in a car crash, a gunshot, or any other physically traumatic event, the resulting wound is a pathway for bacteria to get into your body. If the bacteria multiply and aren’t treated, you might develop gangrene.

Types of Gangrene

In the early stages of infection, it can be hard to tell if you have gangrene. Part of that difficulty is due to the fact that there are several different types of the disease itself. 

The main types of gangrene you need to know about are as follows:

Wet Gangrene

True to its name, wet gangrene appears wet, and it emerges when the affected tissue becomes infected with bacteria. As the bacteria multiply, your skin will blister and swell. 

Wet gangrene can be life-threatening, so if you notice its symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Dry Gangrene

Skin that is affected by dry gangrene, in contrast, is bluish-purple, black, or brown and typically looks dry and shriveled. 

Further distinguishing itself from wet gangrene, dry gangrene progresses very slowly. Usually, the people who develop it have either diabetes or a blood vessel disease like atherosclerosis.

Gas Gangrene

Gas gangrene is usually caused by a bacteria called Clostridium perfringens, which gathers in a deep wound (like a surgical scar or injury) with no blood supply. The multiplying bacteria release gasses that may form bubbles under the surface of your skin. As a result, your skin may change color, and the bubbles may even make a cracking sound if you press on them.

Gas gangrene is another life-threatening type of gangrene, but because it starts deep in the muscle tissue, it can be difficult to diagnose.

Internal Gangrene

Even though both it and gas gangrene take hold deep within the body, internal gangrene differs from the latter in that it affects an organ if its blood supply is cut off. If it goes long enough without blood, an organ will die, and if internal gangrene isn’t treated quickly, it can be deadly.

Fournier’s Gangrene

Fournier’s gangrene is a form of the disease that specifically affects the male genital region, starting with a urinary tract infection or another form of genital infection.

Meleney’s Gangrene

Meleney’s gangrene spreads quickly and has a high mortality rate, but fortunately, it’s very rare. It typically forms after surgery, starting with the appearance of very painful lesions, and it then begins to spread rapidly under the skin.

What Are the Symptoms of Gangrene?

If you’re healing from an injury, have just had surgery, or have a disease that is known to affect blood vessels, it can be helpful to monitor for the following signs of gangrene:

  • A red line around the affected area (signals dry gangrene)
  • Sores that reappear in the same places
  • Redness and swelling around the affected area
  • A wound that smells especially bad
  • An unexplained fever that won’t go away
  • Numbness and coldness in the affected area
  • Very noticeable skin discoloration
  • Skin blisters or a crackly feeling beneath the skin (signals gas gangrene)
  • Skin that turns dry and black (signals dry gangrene)
  • Significant pus or discharge from a wound

Because gangrene can move so quickly and have serious consequences, it’s wise to consult a doctor if you have any suspicion of gangrene.

How Is Gangrene Diagnosed?

Doctors can use a wide variety of techniques to diagnose gangrene, such as:

  • Blood Tests: Larger-than-normal amounts of white blood cells might be a sign that you have an infection
  • X-rays, MRIs, and CT Scans: These can help determine whether gangrene has spread throughout your body
  • Fluid/Tissue Culture: Looking at a sample under a microscope, doctors can detect signs of tissue death
  • Surgery: Sometimes, doctors may need to look directly inside your body to see how far gangrene has spread

Once gangrene has been diagnosed, your medical team must work quickly to stop it from spreading further.

How Is Gangrene Treated?

Thanks to modern medicine, there are many different ways doctors can treat gangrene, including the following:

  • Antibiotics: These medications may be able to kill the infection-causing bacteria
  • Surgery: Sometimes, it might be necessary to remove the infected tissue to stop the bacteria from spreading
    • Vascular Surgery: Surgery performed on blood vessels that can improve circulation
  • Debridement with Maggots: In some cases, doctors might use maggots to eat away at the infected area instead of performing surgery
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment: A patient is placed in a pressurized chamber that forces oxygen into the gangrene-affected area

When offered early enough, these treatments are often successful. 

However, if the bacteria causing gangrene spreads through your body, you may develop sepsis — a condition that is often fatal. Additionally, if gangrene in a limb becomes severe enough, the limb might need to be amputated to save your life.

Have You Been Diagnosed With Gangrene?

Gangrene is a condition that must be identified and treated as soon as possible. If your doctor misdiagnoses it (or fails to diagnose it), you may suffer serious health complications on top of financial and emotional costs.

Contact Our Gainesville Personal Injury Law Firm in North Central Florida

We believe the medical professionals behind those costs should be held accountable and that you deserve financial security as you recover from such a life-altering illness. Get in touch with Allen Law Firm, P.A., or come to our Gainesville office for a free consultation.

If you need legal assistance, contact the Gainesville personal injury lawyers at Allen Law Firm at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We have three convenient locations in North Central Florida:

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Gainesville, FL 32608
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