Dry Gangrene: Symptoms, treatment and prevention

This type of gangrene usually affects fingers and toes. In the case of dry gangrene, there is no pus collection.

Also read: Wet Gangrene

dry gangrene

Diabetics, keep your blood sugar levels under check to reduce risk of gangrene.

What is dry gangrene?

Dry Gangrene is a condition in which some part of the body, especially fingers and toes decays and turns black in colour due to loss of oxygen supply to that part. It is a dry form of gangrene because the infection causes the affected part to dry without the oozing of any pus or liquid. One also experiences coldness in the affected part.

It mostly occurs in the toes and feet of elderly patients due to hardening of the blood vessels. People with diabetics are at a greater risk of developing dry gangrene.

Causes for dry gangrene

1. Dry gangrene can result from a number of diseases and external injuries that slowly reduce or block blood flow, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels)
  • Tobacco addiction
  • Various external injuries like burns, accidents, wounds, or surgery
  •  Frostbite (exposing fingers and toes to very cold temperature)

2. Dry gangrene can also occur quickly due to rapid blockage in very small blood vessels.

Symptoms of dry gangrene  

  • The early signs are  a numb sensation and coldness in the affected area
  • The affected area then starts to discolour, it usually turns from reddish to brown and then finally turns into black colour
  • Dry gangrene caused by immediate loss of blood supply first turn pale or bluish and then black
  • The affected area shrinks and becomes dry
  • If not removed surgically, the affected area may eventually fall off from the body, which is termed as auto-amputation.

Treatment for dry gangrene

Dry gangrene is usually treated by surgically removing the dead part, such as a toe, by a doctor. Often, the patient is treated with antibiotics to prevent infection in other parts of the body. Medicines, which prevent blood from clotting, may also be given to reduce chances of blockade of blood vessel due to a blood clot.

Supportive care: Supportive care can consist of surgical wound care and rehabilitation therapy for reuse of the affected finger, toe, arm or leg.

Prevention of dry gangrene

  • Avoiding tobacco use and external trauma like frostbite can help prevent gangrene
  • Patients with diabetes should keep sugar levels under control and keep notice of their feet for any signs of cuts, infection, or redness
  • Patients with diabetic neuropathy (numbness in arms, legs, fingers and toes) should do this daily.
  • Any wound or burn should be treated immediately, especially in the case of diabetics.  
  • Those who notice coldness and redness of a local area (for example toes, fingers) should immediately visit a doctor. Early diagnosis of any blockage in the blood vessel can prevent dry gangrene.

Photograph via sxc.hu

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