Gas gangrene is a bacterial infection caused by anaerobic Clostridium bacteria, and it can affect the muscle tissues. Gas gangrene is a life-threatening condition, which can occur after certain surgeries.
Clostridium perfringens is a bacterium found in many environmental sources as well as the intestines in humans and animals. Commonly found in raw meat and poultry, Clostridium grows in areas with minimal to no oxygen. Clostridium causes illness, because once in the body, it releases a toxin that leads to sickness, including gas gangrene.
Gas gangrene causes
Gas gangrene is commonly caused by Clostridium bacteria, but it can also be caused by Streptococcus in some cases. Gas gangrene commonly occurs in an area of the body where there was recent trauma, injury, or surgery. It is rare that gas gangrene spontaneously occurs without a cause.
Gas gangrene can appear suddenly and spread quite quickly, so catching it at its earliest point is essential.
Risk factors for gas gangrene include deep wounds, injuries to muscles, crushed tissue, and wounds that have been contaminated with soil or dirt.
Health conditions, too, can increase a person’s risk of gas gangrene, including diabetes, blood vessel disease, colon cancer, frostbite, open fractures, and using a contaminated needle.
Gas gangrene symptoms
Symptoms of gas gangrene include:
- Air beneath the skin
- Pale skin, which looks grey, brownish-red, or black
- Blisters with foul-smelling discharge
- Crackle sensation when you touch your skin
- Increased heart rate
Gas gangrene treatment
A doctor will use blood, fluid, and tissue cultures along with imaging testing in order to properly diagnose gas gangrene. Upon diagnosis, treatment can begin.
For greatest success, treatment for gas gangrene must occur immediately, as the infection can spread rapidly. In many cases, treatment may occur prior to the arrival of test results in order to prevent complications or reduce the risk of death.
Tissues that are dead or have become infected must be removed, and high dosages of antibiotics are typically administered.
In severe incidences, amputation of the affected area must be done in order to prevent the infection from spreading to other healthy parts of the body.
If left untreated, many complications may arise from gas gangrene, including the following:
- Tissue damage
- Liver damage
- Kidney failure
- Sepsis (where the infection spreads to other parts of the body)
It’s important that at the first sign of gas gangrene, you seek out medical attention and that treatment begins immediately.
In order to better protect yourself and prevent gas gangrene, ensure all wounds are properly cleaned and healing well, and contact your doctor at the first sign of infection.
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