Causes of Gangrene

The two main causes of gangrene are:

  • Lack of Blood Supply: Blood provides oxygen and nutrients to the cells of the body. Cells cannot survive without adequate blood supply. Inadequate blood supply starves the cells of the tissue and they slowly die, leading to gangrene.
  • Infection: Unchecked infection can over the long term cause tissue to die, causing gangrene.

There are several factors which lead to an increased risk of gangrene. Some of them are:

  • Age: Gangrene occurs more frequently in older people than in younger ones.
  • Diabetes: Diabetics are at an increased risk of gangrene. This happens because of insulin resistance or insufficient insulin leading to an inability of cells to burn sugar for energy effectively. It leads to higher levels of sugar in the blood which damages blood vessels, leading to interrupted blood flow to parts of the body.
  • Blood Vessel Diseases: Diseases like atherosclerosis cause a narrowing or hardening of the arteries, leading to diminished blood flow. Blood clots can also block the flow of blood leading to gangrene.
  • Obesity: Obesity usually accompanies diabetes and heart disease. The extra weight can compress arteries leading to an interrupted blood supply thus increasing the risk of infection and delaying the healing of wound, inevitably causing gangrene.
  • Surgery or Severe Injury: Any injury or trauma to the skin and underlying tissue can result in gangrene. This is more so in the case of those who have an underlying condition that affects blood flow to the injured area.
  • Medication: There have been rare cases of gangrene being caused by the anticoagulant drug warfarin, especially in combination with heparin treatment.
  • Compromised Immune System: The immune system helps the body to fight infections. Damage to the immune system can occur due to various factors like HIV infection, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or the use of immune-suppressant drugs.

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