FACTS: Although gangrene may sound like a hazard of jungle exploits and military campaigns, the gruesome decay and death of soft body tissue that characterizes the condition can happen to anyone anywhere. There are two common types of gangrene: dry and wet. Dry gangrene occurs when blood flow is interrupted to part of the body. Affected areas dry out and eventually blacken as tissue is slowly mummified. Dry gangrene typically occurs in the fingers and toes, often in the elderly or in those living with diabetes.
Wet gangrene occurs when infection accompanies the interrupted blood flow. Bacteria such as clostridium perfringens, which produce toxic gases that can bubble up under the skin, are often implicated.
Although wet gangrene typically occurs after physical trauma or surgery, the bacteria responsible are widespread and infections can occur more or less spontaneously. It is extremely fast-spreading and can be fatal if left untreated.
While it is possible to treat gangrene, it can be complicated and can cost you an arm and a leg—literally. Intravenous antibiotics are often required, as is surgery to remove infected areas and prevent spreading.
So keep an eye out for warning signs such as persistent pain, numbness, swelling, or strangely discolored skin. Because it’s a jungle out there, and you don’t want to find yourself in a fight for your life.
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