People all over the world are inflicted with serious medical conditions each year which can result in death if not treated immediately. Some serious medical conditions are rare which might make the diagnosis and treatment very difficult. Rare medical conditions can be some of the most serious and fatal medical conditions because the lack of a diagnosis can delay treatment and wind up making the disease progress. Gangrene itself is not a rare medical condition as we see it often in the medical field, but there are different types of gangrene. Gas gangrene happens to be one of the more rare types of gangrene and can often become fatal. Gas gangrene is a very serious medical condition that is progressive and can take over the body well before a diagnosis is ever made. If you think you have Gas gangrene you should seek medical attention right away because this medical condition is very serious and life-threatening.
Gas gangrene is not common in the United States and is classified as a rare medical disease because not many people become afflicted with it. Gangrene is when tissue death occurs will cause the infected areas to become black and infected. People who suffer from gangrene will often have to have that portion of their body removed to prevent further tissue death from spreading to other areas. Gas gangrene is a life-threatening form of gangrene caused by specific bacteria such as Clostridium perfringens or Group A streptococcus. The bacteria Clostridium is often found in the environment and as it grows it can produce a toxic gas within the tissues of the body. The different toxins found in the gas can cause damage to various body tissues and when there are low oxygen levels present, the toxins can cause gas gangrene to occur.
Gas gangrene generally occurs in people who have had a recent traumatic event or in someone who has an open surgical wound. Gas gangrene is not a very slow disease meaning once it occurs the progression is very fast. It will be difficult to stop gas gangrene after it has occurred because it takes over the tissues in the body so fast that a diagnosis or treatment might not help. You do not have to have a surgical wound or traumatic event to get gas gangrene though since atherosclerosis or even diabetes can also cause gas gangrene. Clostridium is made up of many different toxins but four of them have the potential to cause death to your tissue, blood cells or blood vessels. Gas gangrene is essentially caused by the toxins in the body releasing a gas which can kill your tissues and lead to amputation or death.
Gas gangrene also produces a variety of symptoms but they come on fast and very aggressive which can destroy tissues within minutes. If you have these symptoms you will often see them progress within just a few minutes and the edges of the infected area will be expanding right before your eyes. The infected area will become inflamed with blisters pale or red in color. There will be air pockets under the skin and when you press on it you might hear or feel a cracking sensation which is the gas occurring. The blisters will be filled with a very foul-smelling red or brown fluid and you will have severe pain and swelling around the area. Your heart rate will increase and you will become sweaty which often accompanies a high fever. The skin will appear yellow in nature and the affected areas will change to a purple color which means blood flow is being hampered. If you do not seek medical treatment as soon as you feel the symptoms coming on you could develop shock which is accompanied by low blood pressure, coma, and kidney failure which will lead to coma or death. The best thing you can do if you feel the gas gangrene symptoms is to get medical attention right away so the progression can be stopped and tests can be run to confirm the gas gangrene diagnosis.
If you think you have gas gangrene getting to the hospital is the best thing you can do, even if you are experiencing a high-level of shock. A medical professional will be able to feel the infected area to see if there is indeed gas or air within the tissues to confirm gas gangrene. A blood culture might also be done to confirm bacteria growing within the tissue or fluid cultures and anaerobic tissue cultures can be done to also reveal the Clostridium bacteria. Gram stains are also performed to seek a diagnosis and they will show gram-positive rods which indicate the presence of bacteria and will show the type of bacteria. Using X-ray machines or computed tomography might also be done to indicate the presence of the gas within the tissues for further confirmation. Once there is a confirmed diagnosis of gas gangrene then you can begin a treatment plan.
Treatment mostly consists of having emergency surgery to remove the tissues that are infected and damaged or dead. Removing these tissues can help prevent the gas gangrene from spreading further throughout the body and it can help stop other major infections. Amputation might be needed for an arm or leg if the infection has spread to minimize the overall damage of gas gangrene and to stop it from spreading further. You will not always have a confirmed diagnosis of gas gangrene before surgical options are used. Sometimes the test results will not get back before the medical professional must decide on whether to start a surgical removal of the dead or infected tissues. Antibiotics are given after surgery to help control the gas gangrene and prevent it from spreading further. Pain medications might also be given to help control the pain after surgery to help the recovery process. Hyperbaric chamber treatment might also be used as a treatment option and preventative measure to stop the gas gangrene from spreading but it has only been used in a few cases.
The prognosis of gas gangrene is often fatal and is considered a progressive medical condition which means it will spread quickly throughout the body. Gas gangrene also exhibits many different complications that can occur before or after treatment options have been used. Some of these complications include coma, permanent tissue damage, jaundice and liver damage, delirium, shock, sepsis, and kidney failure. The best way to prevent gas gangrene from occurring is to take care of all skin injuries and wounds. Clean open wounds immediately and constantly to help prevent an infection from occurring. If you have an open wound you should always look for signs of redness or swelling which might indicate an infection such as gas gangrene. Always wash the open wounds and place ointment on it to speed up the healing process and then cover it with a bandage. If you have an open wound and notice any redness or swelling then you should get to a medical office right away because this could be a possible life-threatening bacterial infection. The only way to know whether you have gas gangrene is to go to the hospital or seek medical advice since this article is not designed to take the place of true medical advice.
Medline Plus Staff, “Gas Gangrene”, Medline Plus
Matthew E Levison, “Gas Gangrene”, Merck Online Manuals