People with diabetes should be especially vigilant about avoiding infections as much as possible. Poor circulation (often caused by PAD) means that white blood cells can’t get to the extremities to fight off infection as well as they should, and nerve damage (caused by neuropathy) means that someone will be less apt to notice when their feet are injured. Even small cuts and sores will be slower to heal and therefore more prone to infections.
Infections might include cellulitis (infections beneath the skin), osteomyelitis (bone infections), or sepsis (occurs when an infection spreads to the bloodstream). Of course, any infection is serious, and in a worst-case-scenario an infection could lead to gangrene and amputation.
Gangrene is tissue death that occurs because of an infection or lack of blood flow (see the full gangrene article here).
A person with diabetes is at risk for dry gangrene when blood flow to a certain area (often a foot or toe) is blocked. The skin will turn dark and lose feeling. Dry gangrene is slow to develop and more common in people who have a blood vessel complication. Wet gangrene occurs because of an infection, often due to a burn or frostbite. It can also occur as the result of a diabetic foot ulcer. Wet gangrene develops quickly and can be fatal.
Gangrene may lead to amputation, so it’s imperative that signs of gangrene or infection be treated promptly by a doctor.
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