When gangrene affects your skin, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Skin discoloration — ranging from pale to blue, purple, black, bronze or red, depending on the type of gangrene you have
  • Severe pain followed by a feeling of numbness
  • A foul-smelling discharge leaking from a sore

If you have a type of gangrene that affects tissues beneath the surface of your skin, such as gas gangrene or internal gangrene, you may notice that:

  • The affected tissue is swollen and painful
  • You're running a fever and feel unwell

A condition called septic shock can occur if a bacterial infection that originated in the gangrenous tissue spreads throughout your body. Signs and symptoms of septic shock include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • A body temperature greater than 100.4 F (38 C) or lower than 96.8 F (36 C)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion

When to see a doctor

Gangrene is a serious condition and needs immediate treatment. Call your doctor right away if you have persistent, unexplained pain in any area of your body along with one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Persistent fever
  • Skin changes — including discoloration, warmth, swelling, blisters or lesions — that won't go away
  • A foul-smelling discharge leaking from a sore
  • Sudden pain at the site of a recent surgery or trauma
  • Skin that's pale, hard, cold and numb — which may be an indication of frostbite
Aug. 10, 2011