Gangrene – What are the causes, signs and treatments

Gangrene is a condition whereby skin and soft tissues die as a result of the lack of oxygen-carrying blood to the affected area; this means that there is insufficient blood to keep the body tissues alive. Gangrene usually affects the extremities such as the fingers, toes, feet and hands but can happen in muscles and internal organs as well.


There are 2 types of Gangrene – wet gangrene and dry gangrene, and the causes for each are different.

The most common causes for dry gangrene include chronic health diseases that affect the circulation of blood such as diabetes, atherosclerosis and tobacco addiction, and can be a result of certain types of injury and frostbite as well. Dry gangrene usually happens in the limbs and when infected, will lead to wet gangrene.

Wet gangrene is caused by bacterial infection that may be an extension of the common causes of dry gangrene listed above. There are certain cases of wet gangrene, however, whereby the primary cause is an infection itself. The infection causes the tissues in the affected area to swell, pus to form and it will look “wet” and blistered.


Dry gangrene The affected area will start to lose its natural skin color and eventually turn blue and black. The skin will start to shrivel and dry as well with the area feeling cold. The patient will start to lose any feeling in the area as the tissues slowly die because of the lack of blood flow there.

Wet gangrene The patient will feel intense pain in the affected area, and the skin will turn from a healthy pink tone to blue, purple and black in color. Blisters will start to form, and pus will be discharged. Because infection is always present in cases of wet gangrene, the patient will develop a fever as well.