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Gangrene is the death of tissues in your body. It happens when a part of your body loses its blood supply. Gangrene can happen on the surface of the body, such as on the skin. It can happen inside the body in muscles or organs.

Causes include: Serious injuries or infections, problems with blood circulation, diabetes, skin symptoms may include a blue or black discoloration of the affected area, pain, numbness and sores that produce a foul-smelling discharge. If the gangrene is internal, you may run a fever and feel unwell. The area may be swollen and painful. Treatment includes surgery, antibiotics and oxygen therapy. In severe cases, an amputation may be necessary.


When gangrene is located on the skin, symptoms may include:

  • Discolored skin, which may appear blue, purple, black, bronze or red.
  • Foul-smelling discharge from a wound or sore.
  • Severe pain in the affected area followed by numbness, or a loss of sensation.

When gangrene is located beneath the surface of the skin, symptoms may include:

  • Feeling sick or ill.
  • Fever.
  • Swelling and pain in the affected area.

If bacteria move from the affected tissue and infect other tissues throughout the body, it may cause septic shock. Symptoms of septic shock are:

A temperature greater than 100.4° Fahrenheit or lower than 96.8° Fahrenheit.

  • Confusion.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Shortness of breath.

Call your health care provider right away if you have ongoing, unexplained pain in any area of your body along with one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Fever.
  • Skin changes that won’t go away, including discoloration, warmth, swelling, blisters or lesions.
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You should also contact your health care provider if you have ongoing, unexplained pain and one or more of these symptoms:

  • A foul-smelling discharge leaking from a sore.
  • Skin that is pale, hard, cold and numb.
  • Sudden pain at the site of a recent surgery or trauma.


Gangrene is caused by one or both of the following:

  • Lack of blood supply.
  • Bacterial infection.

Health care providers use different names for gangrene based on its cause or location. The three most common causes include:

  • Dry gangrene, which is caused by blood vessel diseases.
  • Wet gangrene, which is caused by a bacterial infection or diabetes.
  • Gas gangrene, which is caused by infection with the bacterium Clostridium.

Other, less common, causes of gangrene are given different names:

  • Internal gangrene.
  • Fournier’s gangrene.
  • Meleney’s gangrene.

Internal gangrene happens when blood flow to an internal organ is blocked. For example, internal gangrene may develop after a hernia. A hernia happens when the intestines push through a weakened area of muscle in your abdomen.

Internal gangrene most often affects the intestines, gallbladder or appendix. Fournier’s gangrene is a rare type of gangrene caused by an infection in the genital area or urinary tract. It involves the genital organs. Men are more often affected, but women also can develop this type of gangrene.

Meleney’s gangrene is also known as bacterial synergistic gangrene. It is a rare type of gangrene caused by a bacterial infection after a surgical operation. Painful skin lesions develop one to two weeks after surgery.