Developing gangrene is a spectre that causes much discomfort to diabetics and those at risk. Because our Clinic caters for diabetics and seniors, and the incidence of diabetes is very high, we come face to face with persons with it who are unaware. The same obtains for caregivers for some of them who are also ignorant, hence requests to highlight prevention.
Gangrene is the term used to describe when part of your body tissue dies, usually because it is not getting enough blood from your circulatory system. It tends to affect the extremities such as your fingers, toes and lower limbs, but can even extend to your internal organs. This is not a condition to procrastinate about, it could lead to an amputation or loss of life. The sooner it’s attended to, the better.
Types of Gangrene
These affect the lower limbs, our area of focus:
-Dry gangrene – The skin dries and shrivels skin. Usually, the development is slow. It occurs most commonly in people who have a blood vessel disease.
-Wet gangrene – It is referred to as “wet” if there’s a bacterial infection in the affected tissue. Swelling, blistering and a wet appearance are common features, which can develop after a severe burn, frostbite or injury. People with diabetes who unknowingly injure a toe or foot tend to be at risk.
-Gas gangrene –Typically affects deep muscle tissue. Initially the surface of your skin may appear normal. A bubbly appearance to your skin may become apparent, and the affected skin may make a crackling sound when you press on it because of the gas within the tissue. The bacterial infection produces toxins that release gas hence the name “gas” gangrene and can cause tissue death. Like wet gangrene, it can become life-threatening.
When gangrene affects your skin, signs and symptoms may include:
-Discolouration, that can range from pale to blue, purple, black, bronze or red, depending on the type of gangrene
-Severe pain followed by a feeling of numbness
-A foul-smelling discharge leaking from a sore.
A condition called septic shock can occur if a bacterial infection that originated in the gangrenous tissue spreads throughout your body.
If you have diabetes or another chronic condition that can cause arteriosclerosis (hardening or thickening of the arteries), it is important that you take extra care of your feet. You should have your feet checked at least once a year if you are diabetic . However, more frequent check-ups may be required for those who have additional risk factors, such as peripheral neuropathy (lack of feeling, or numbness, in the hands and feet) or a history of previous foot ulcers. The tips listed can help to prevent developing a diabetic foot ulcer:
-Check your feet daily for problems, such as numbness, discolouration, breaks in the skin, pain or swelling. Report any problems to your GP immediately.
-Don’t walk barefooted and wear shoes without socks.
-Don’t use chemical preparations for calluses, corns, or in-growing toenails. Instead, you should contact a podiatrist.
-Wash your feet daily with warm water. Afterwards, make sure that you dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes.
-Avoid using hot water bottles, electric blankets. These may burn your feet, particularly if you have reduced sensation. Burnt tissue is vulnerable to gangrene.
-Have your feet measured properly. If there is a difference between the size of your feet, you should buy shoes to fit the larger foot.
-Avoid wearing sandals, flip-flops, slip-ons and shoes that have a pointed toe, or heels higher than an inch. Shoes that have round or square toes, and laces or fasteners, provide the best support and protection for your feet. Always break in new shoes gradually.
If you have a history of foot ulcers, use specially designed therapeutic or orthopaedic shoes to help prevent more occurring.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!