Necrosis of the skin refers to the death of skin cells. It can be caused by many factors and can lead to severe complications, such as sepsis (blood poisoning), necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria), and amputation. Skin necrosis treatment depends on the severity of the condition.
- Frostbite: A medical condition occurs when the skin and underlying tissues are exposed to extreme cold. Frostbite can cause permanent damage to the affected area and can even lead to amputation in severe cases. Frostbite most commonly affects the extremities, such as the hands, feet, ears, and nose. However, it can also occur in other body parts, such as the cheeks, chin, and abdomen. Frostbite symptoms include numbness, tingling, pain, redness, swelling, and blisters.
- Gangrene: Gangrene results from a lack of blood flow to an area of the body, which can occur because of an injury, infection, or other underlying health condition. Gangrene can lead to severe complications, including sepsis and death.
- Pressure ulcers are a type of injury that can occur when sustained pressure is on one area of the body. Pressure ulcers commonly occur on areas of the body where little fat or muscle is cushioning, such as the heels, elbows, hips, and back. Pressure ulcers can range in severity from superficial reddening of the skin to deep tissue damage and death of tissue. Pressure ulcers are a severe health concern, particularly for people who are immobilized or have limited mobility.
- Exposure to extreme temperatures (either hot or cold)
- Burns (thermal, chemical, electrical)
- Radiation therapy
- Certain medications (such as corticosteroids and chemotherapy drugs)
- Autoimmune disorders (such as lupus and scleroderma)
- Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels)
- Vascular diseases (such as arteriosclerosis and Raynaud's disease)
- Diabetes mellitus
- Certain infections (such as gangrene and necrotizing fasciitis)
Necrosis skin symptoms depend on the underlying cause. However, some general symptoms are associated with this condition, such as:
- Skin that is red, warm, and painful to the touch
- Blisters or ulcers on the skin
- Blackened or dead tissue (eschar)
- Crusting or scaling of the skin
- Swelling of the affected area
Complications of necrosis of the skin can be severe and even life-threatening. Some of the most common complications include:
- Sepsis: This is a potentially fatal condition caused by bacteria getting into the bloodstream. Symptoms of sepsis include fever, chills, rapid heartbeat, and rapid breathing.
- Necrotizing fasciitis: This is a severe infection that causes the death of tissue in the body. Symptoms include severe pain, fever, and vomiting. If left untreated, necrotizing fasciitis can lead to amputation or death.
- Amputation: In some cases, necrosis of the skin may lead to amputation of the affected limb.
Skin Necrosis Treatment depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. Some common treatments include:
- Pain relief: This may be achieved with over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Prescription pain medications may also be necessary.
- Antibiotics are used to treat infections, such as sepsis or necrotizing fasciitis.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove dead tissue or to amputate a limb.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: This is a treatment in which the patient breathes 100% oxygen inside a chamber pressurized with air, which helps to promote healing by increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood. Learn more about hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
- Skin grafts: This is a surgical procedure in which skin from another area of the body is transplanted to the area of skin necrosis.
- Avoiding exposure to extreme temperatures (both hot and cold)
- Using proper protection when working with chemicals or electrical equipment
- Keeping the skin clean and well moisturized
- Treating underlying conditions, such as diabetes or vascular diseases, promptly and effectively
You must see your doctor regularly for skin check-ups if you are at risk for skin necrosis. Early detection and treatment of skin problems can help to prevent serious complications.