Elderly Diabetics at Risk for Gangrene

Gangrene, the nasty condition known to cause black and green limbs due to infection and a leading cause of amputations, and most recognized as a product of war wounds or conditions, is now being mentioned as a risk for elderly diabetics. With both the number of elderly, and the incidence of diabetes, rising in the United States, this is potentially troubling news that needs to be addressed. Insufficient blood supply is the primary cause of gangrene, which precipitates infection and necrosis, or cell death. The killing off of body tissue in necrosis results in the infamous green or black appearance of gangrene infected body parts. Gangrene, if not treated quickly, often results (or more correctly, resulted, since gangrene has become a medical afterthought since World War 2) in amputation, and if it spreads sufficiently, death. The current study focused specifically on gas gangrene (dry and wet gangrene are the other known varieties), which is characterized by infected gas being produced within tissues, which can then lead to necrosis. According to a recent study, a certain toxin in gangrene increases inflammation and decreases blood supply, and has the most potential of rearing itself in elderly diabetic patients. Study author Professor Richard Titball explains the future dangers of gangrene, and the need for further research; “Gas gangrene is not just a historical curiosity. In the past it has been a major cause of death and disability in servicemen injured on the battlefield, although it is rarely a problem now because of the prompt treatment that casualties receive. However it does occasionally occur in the civilian population with diabetes patients, with the elderly being most at risk. In the future, the incidence of gangrene infection may rise in line with the increase in this age group in the general population. It is essential to understand how the toxin works to prevent future disease.” Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Titball, Richard. Stilwell, Diane. Society for General Microbiology news release. March 2009.

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