Gangrene is a serious condition where a loss of blood supply causes body tissue to die. It can affect any part of the body but typically starts in the toes, feet, fingers and hands.

Gangrene can occur as a result of an injury, infection or a long-term condition that affects blood circulation.

Symptoms of gangrene include:

  • redness and swelling in the affected area
  • either a loss of sensation or severe painin the affected area
  • sores orblisters in the affected area that bleed or produce a foul-smelling pus

You should see your GP immediately if you're worried you may have gangrene.

These include people with long-term conditions that can affect the blood vessels, such as:

  • diabetes a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high
  • Atherosclerosis where the arteries become clogged up with a fatty substance called plaque, narrowingthem and restricting blood flow
  • peripheral arterial disease where a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries restricts blood supply to leg muscles
  • Raynaud's phenomenon where blood vessels in certain parts of the body, usually the fingers or toes, react abnormally to cold temperatures

In 2013-14, more than 35,500 cases of gangrene were seen in hospitals in England.

The main treatments include surgery to remove damaged tissue, known as debridement, and antibiotics to treat any underlying infection.

In some cases, surgery may be needed to restore blood flow to the affected area.

In more severe cases, it may be necessary to remove an entire body part such as a toe, foot, or lower leg. This is known as amputation .

Preventing gangrene

Many cases of gangrene can be prevented.

If you have a condition that increases your risk of getting gangrene, such as diabetes, it's important you have regular check-ups to assess the state of your feet. Report any problems to your GP as soon as possible.

Stopping smoking if you smoke and adopting a healthy lifestyle, with a low-fat diet and regular exercise ,can also improve your circulation and reduce your risk of developing gangrene.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016