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Diabetic Foot Gangrene Treatment: Taking Care of Gangrene In Your Feet

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Louise Nichole Logarta · Updated Dec 21, 2022

    Diabetic Foot Gangrene Treatment: Taking Care of Gangrene In Your Feet

    Gangrene is a serious and life-threatening condition that occurs when large areas of body tissue are persistently deprived of blood flow, resulting in tissue death. The affected area, in most cases, become a greenish black color.  There are several types of gangrene which usually affect extremities: arms, legs, feet and toes. Among those at risk for gangrene are people living with diabetes. Diabetic foot gangrene treatment may be needed to manage gangrene in the feet.

    What kinds of gangrene are there?

    Dry gangrene

    This occurs when blood supply to a part of the body is restricted. That part of the body dries out, shrinks, and blackens and may even fall off.

    Wet gangrene

    This type of gangrene occurs when bacteria infects the affected tissue. The tissue swells, drains fluid, and develops a foul smell.

    Gas gangrene

    When specific bacteria infects the affected tissue, it releases gas. This type of gangrene is often caused by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens. This bacteria multiplies, forms toxins and releases gas that causes foul smell.

    Internal gangrene

    This occurs when blood flow to an internal organ is cut off. Potentially affected organs include the intestines, gallbladder, and appendix.

    Necrotizing fasciitis

    This is a severe bacterial infection that spreads through deeper layers of skin and tissue.

    What are the symptoms of gangrene?

  • Skin discoloration (from pale to blue, purple, black, and bronze to red)
  • Swelling
  • Blisters
  • Sudden pain prior to numbness
  • Foul smelling discharge from a sore
  • Thin, shiny skin or hairless skin
  • Skin that is cold to the touch
  • Internal or gas gangrene may also present with a low-grade fever and malaise.

    What are the risk factors?

    Some underlying health issues may put one at risk for gangrene. These include:

    • Diabetes – High blood sugar levels can lead to nerve and blood vessel damage
    • Atherosclerosis – Arteries harden with plaque
    • Raynaud’s disease – Blood vessels in the fingers and toes react atypically to cold temperature
    • Peripheral arterial disease – Fatty deposits accumulate and block blood supply to leg muscles

    Diabetics in particular, may suffer foot infections due to nerve damage stemming from high blood sugar levels. They are more prone to injuries without feeling it. The lack of blood supply also results in a smaller number of anti-infection cells, which tends to delay wound healing and makes one more prone to infection or have difficulty recovering from it.

    What methods of diabetic foot gangrene treatment are available?

    One of the primary steps of diabetic foot gangrene treatment is the removal of infected or dead tissue. This may be done via traditional surgery or a technique called larval debridement therapy. This method utilizes laboratory-bred maggots that do not reproduce and feed on dead tissue alone.

    The next step is to treat or curb infection. Doctors may prescribe a course of antibiotics.

    Surgery may be necessary to restore flow in the blood vessels.

    Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may also be used. In this case, the affected area is sealed in a high pressure oxygen chamber. The high oxygen levels promote circulation and may help heal dying tissue. High oxygen levels could also reduce bacterial growth.

    What complications could arise?

    If treatment does not work, amputation of the foot may be needed to contain the infection. Sepsis may also occur if gangrene spreads.

    When should I see a doctor?

    See a healthcare provider if any of the following occur:

    • Fever that does not break
    • Skin changes that do not fade
    • There is discharge from a sore/wound
    • Skin turns cold, hard, and numb
    • There is pain at the site of surgery or trauma

    How can I prevent gangrene?

    Diabetics need to monitor their blood sugar levels and maintain them in the normal range. They may also make it a habit to check their feet and legs for injury, quit smoking, avoid alcohol, eat healthfully, and exercise regularly.

    Key takeaways

    Gangrene is a severe health condition. It occurs when blood supply to body tissue is cut off. It commonly affects arms, feet, legs, and toes. Among those at higher risk for gangrene are diabetics. People with diabetes suffer from nerve damage due to high levels of blood glucose and are therefore more prone to injury that they may not be spotted right away.

    Some diabetic foot gangrene treatments involve removal of dead tissue, blood flow restoration and treatment via antibiotics. In some cases, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may promote circulation, heal dying tissue, and lessen bacterial growth.

    Learn more about Diabetes here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Louise Nichole Logarta · Updated Dec 21, 2022

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