Necrotizing Fasciitis (Soft Tissue Inflammation)

What is necrotizing fasciitis?

Necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh eating disease, is a type of soft tissue infection. It can destroy the tissue in your skin and muscles as well as subcutaneous tissue, which is the tissue under your skin.

Necrotizing fasciitis is most commonly caused by an infection with group A Streptococcus, commonly known as “flesh-eating bacteria.” This is the fastest growing form of the infection. When this infection is caused by other types of bacteria, it usually doesn’t progress as faster and relatively less dangerous.

This bacterial skin infection is rare in healthy people, but it’s possible to get this infection from even a small cut, so it’s necessary to be careful about the symptoms if you’re at risk. You should see your doctor urgently if you have symptoms or believe that you may have developed the infection. Because the condition can progress quickly, it’s necessary to treat it as soon as possible.

What are the symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis?

The first symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis may not look serious. Your skin may become warm and red, and you may feel as if you’ve pulled a muscle. You may even feel like you normally have the flu.

You can also develop a painful, red bump, which is usually small. Although, the red bump doesn’t stay small. The pain will become worse, and the affected area will grow very fast.

There may be oozing from the infected area, or it’s color may be changed as it decays. Blisters, bumps, black dots, or other skin lesions might appear. In the initial stages of the infection, the pain will be much worse than it looks.

Other symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis are the:

What causes necrotizing fasciitis?

To get necrotizing fasciitis, you need to have the bacteria in your body. This normally occurs when the skin is broken or damaged. For example, the bacteria can enter your body through a cut, scrape, or surgical wound. These injuries don’t require to be large for the bacteria to take hold. Even a needle puncture can be sufficient.

Various types of bacteria lead to necrotizing fasciitis. The most common and well-known type is group A Streptococcus. Though, this isn’t the only type of bacteria that can lead to this infection. Other bacteria that can cause necrotizing fasciitis are:

  • Aeromonas hydrophila
  • Clostridium
  • E. coli
  • Klebsiella
  • Staphylococcus aureus

Risk factors for necrotizing fasciitis

You can got necrotizing fasciitis even if you’re totally healthy, but this is rare. People who already have health problems that weaken the immune system, such as cancer or diabetes, are at greater risk of developing infections caused by group A Streptococcus.

Other people who are at greater risk for necrotizing fasciitis include those who:

  • have chronic heart or lung disease
  • use steroids
  • have skin lesions
  • abuse alcohol or inject drugs

How is necrotizing fasciitis diagnosed?

Along with looking at your skin, your doctor may perform various tests to diagnose this condition. They may take a biopsy, which is a small sample of the affected skin tissue for the examination.

In other cases, blood tests, CT, or MRI scans may help your doctor create a diagnosis. Blood tests can reveal if your muscles have been damaged.

How is necrotizing fasciitis treated?

Treatment starts with powerful antibiotics. These are delivered directly into your veins. The tissue decay means that the antibiotics might not be able to reach all of the infected areas. As a result, it’s essential for doctors to remove any dead tissue quickly.

In some cases, amputation of one or more limbs may be essential to help stop the progression of the infection.

What’s the outlook?

The viewpoint depends completely on the severity of the condition. Early diagnosis is vital for this dangerous, life-threatening infection. The earlier the infection is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated.

Without immediate treatment, this infection can be life threatening. Other conditions that you have in addition to the infection can also have an impact on the aspect.

Those who recover from necrotizing fasciitis may feel anything from minor scarring to limb amputation. It may need multiple surgical procedures to treat and then additional procedures such as delayed wound closure or skin grafting. Each case is different. Your doctor will be able to give you more particular information about your individual case.

How can I prevent necrotizing fasciitis?

There’s no certain way to prevent a necrotizing fasciitis infection. Though, you can lower your risk with basic hygiene practices. Wash your hands frequently with soap and treat any wounds quickly, even minor ones.

If you already have a wound, take proper care of it. Change your bandages in regular basis or when they become wet or dirty. Don’t put yourself in situations where your wound could become contaminated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists hot tubs, whirlpools, and swimming pools as examples of places you should avoid when you have a wound.

Go to your doctor or the emergency room as soon as possible if you think there’s any chance you may have necrotizing fasciitis. Treating the infection early is very necessary to avoid complications.


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