Diabetics need to watch out for Gangrene

There are many foot issues that can arise when you have diabetes. Foot specialist, Dr. Harvey Danciger encourages all of his patients with diabetes to be educated about the serious complications that can develop. One complication to be aware of that is very serious and can be quite dangerous is known as gangrene.

What is Gangrene?

Gangrene occurs when there is death and decay of tissues, usually in your extremities. It typically happens when there is poor circulation and blood flow is impaired. When an area does not have adequate blood supply, the tissue is not nourished and dies. When tissues die, toxins can also spread into and kill nearby tissues.

How is a Person with Diabetes at Risk for Gangrene?

A common complication of diabetes is nerve damage, called neuropathy. High blood sugar can injure nerves resulting in a loss of sensation and feeling. Neuropathy impairs your ability to feel pain, or sense extreme temperatures. Because of this, problems are often ignored or go unnoticed until significant damage or injury has occurred.

Another complication of diabetes is poor circulation. Hardened arteries inhibit good blood flow and this greatly affects the healing process of even the smallest foot wound or injury. The combination of nerve damage and poor circulation is what increases the risk of gangrene if you have diabetes. The nerve damage can make it difficult for you to know if you have an open wound making it easy for it to go untreated. When you add poor circulation to the situation, an untreated wound that cannot heal can quickly become infected. The infected wound can then lead to gangrene.

What are the Symptoms of Gangrene?

It is imperative to seek treatment as soon as symptoms are noticed. The earlier gangrene is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome will be. Symptoms of gangrene include:

  • Changes in your skin - The decreased blood flow to the area may cause your skin to become pale at first then turn red, dark blue or black. Your skin may also have a waxy appearance.
  • Numbness in the affected area and it is often cold to the touch.
  • Foul smelling discharge
  • Blisters may also form
  • Pain and pressure in the affected area

What Treatment is Available for Gangrene?

Unfortunately, once tissues die there is no way to preserve them or reverse the damage. If symptoms are noticed early though, the spread can be stopped. Gangrene is an aggressive condition and most always requires aggressive treatment.

When an infection is present, antibiotics will be used and then surgery is typically the first line of defense in stopping it from spreading. Dead tissue will be surgically removed. This process may take several steps to ensure that all of the gangrenous tissue has been eliminated. Then, the surrounding healthy tissue will be given time to heal properly. Because of how quick gangrene advances, many people with diabetes have had to have toes, feet or entire legs amputated to fully stop the advancement of this condition.

If you have diabetes, we cannot stress enough the importance of closely monitoring the health of your feet. If you notice a wound that has caused your skin to start to turn blue or black, call our podiatric office to seek treatment immediately. The quicker gangrene is diagnosed and treated, the less likely you will have to face possible amputation.

Gangrene is a serious condition and requires immediate attention. Contact the office of Dr. Danciger right away for help: (760) 568 - 0108.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle