What is Diabetic Gangrene?
Gangrene is a medical condition, which results due to the death of the body tissues. Diabetic gangrene is a condition which occurs in diabetics and the cause of which is obstructed blood supply due to tissue death or tissue damage. Diabetic gangrene can also occur due to infection, underlying injury or illness caused by poor blood circulation as a result of diabetes to different body parts.
Why Do People With Diabetes Get Gangrene?
Diabetes increases the risk of developing gangrene. The high blood sugar levels in diabetes damages the diabetic patient’s nerves resulting in loss of sensation in the affected region; due to which the patient suffers more injuries and is not even aware of the injuries. These injuries if not treated on time lead to the development of diabetic gangrene.
Other than this, the high blood sugar levels in diabetes also affect the patient’s blood vessels and restrict the blood flow to the extremities. This leads to delayed wound healing or difficulty in healing of any wounds, which leads to infection and ultimately gangrene.
Which Body Parts Does The Diabetic Gangrene Affect The Most?
Diabetic gangrene commonly affects the extremities, such as fingers, limbs and toes; however, diabetic gangrene can also occur within the body causing damage to the organs and muscles.
What is the Frequency of Diabetic Gangrene?
Around 1 in 3 diabetic patients develop a foot ulcer during their lifetime. If this foot ulcer is not treated, then it develops into diabetic foot gangrene. Around 85% of the limb amputations performed in diabetic patients is followed by foot ulcers. All over the world, a lower limb amputation is done about every 30 seconds due to diabetes. The mortality rate from diabetic foot gangrene is second to the cancer death rate.
How is Diabetic Gangrene Treated?
Treatment of Diabetic Gangrene can be done if it is detected in early stages, i.e. before the complete death of the tissue has occurred. Some of the treatment options for Diabetic Gangrene are:
Vascular Surgery for Treating Diabetic Gangrene: The blood circulation in the affected area is restored in case of dry gangrene. In vascular surgery, a tiny balloon is placed in the blood vessel to open it up and restore the obstructed blood flow. A stent can also be placed in the vessel to keep it open.
Bypass Surgery: In this procedure, the blood flow is redirected so that it bypasses the blockage and reaches the affected region. This is done by grafting or connecting one of the body’s healthy vessels to it.
Nutritional Revascularization: This treatment option for diabetic gangrene consists of using natural and vital nutritional supplements in specified doses to correct the nutritional imbalances and deficiencies, which can cause circulatory problems.
Debridement & Reconstructive Surgery for Treating Diabetic Gangrene: This procedure consists of surgically removing the affected tissue because tissue death cannot be reversed. After the debridement, a reconstructive surgery can be done where healthy skin tissue is grafted to cover the affected area from another part of the body.
Amputation: About 70 % of limb amputations all over the world occur due to diabetes. If the gangrene is in advanced stage and has progressed beyond repair, then amputation is the last resort for treatment of diabetic gangrene.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT): This is one of the new and advanced treatments of diabetic gangrene, which can successfully avoid amputation of the limb in diabetes patients. In this therapy, healing of the diabetic wounds is achieved with oxygen supply to the dead tissues. According to studies, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can substantially cut down on the risk of leg amputations in patients with diabetes and who are suffering from wounds.
The Importance of Diabetic Foot Care
With proper Diabetic Foot Care, the amputation rates can be reduced by about 50 to 85 %. There is no simple solution, as the foot problems in diabetics can be complex. It is important that the patient has complete diabetes education along with understanding of the nature of foot complications in diabetics. Diabetic patients should be more aware of self-management of diabetes to cut down the risk of complications from diabetes.