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Alternative names :- Fasciitis - necrotizing; Flesh-eating bacteria; Soft tissue gangrene; Gangrene - soft-tissue
Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare bacterial infection that can destroy skin and the soft tissues beneath it, including fat and the tissue covering the muscles (fascia). Because these tissues often die rapidly, a person with necrotizing fasciitis is sometimes said to be infected with "flesh-eating" bacteria, especially Streptococcus pyrogenes.
Necrotizing fasciitis is very rare but serious. Around 30% of those who develop necrotizing fasciitis die from the disease.
Causes of Necrotizing fasciitis
Infection may begin as a small reddish painful spot or bump on the skin. This quickly changes to a painful bronzed or purplish patch that expands rapidly. The center may become black and dead (necrotic). The skin may break open. Visible expansion of the infection may occur in less than an hour.
Signs and symptoms of Necrotizing fasciitis
A person may have pain from an injury that lessens over 24 to 36 hours and then suddenly becomes much worse. Other symptoms may include fever, chills, and nausea and vomiting or diarrhea. The skin commonly becomes red, swollen, and hot to the touch. If the infection is deep in the tissue, these signs of inflammation may not develop right away. The symptoms often develop suddenly (over a few hours or a day), and the infection may spread rapidly and can quickly become life-threatening. Serious illness and shock can develop in addition to tissue damage. Necrotizing fasciitis can lead to organ failure and, sometimes, death.
How common is necrotizing fasciitis?
Based on surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that necrotizing fasciitis causes 10,000-15,000 infections each year in the United States, resulting in 2,000-3,000 deaths. Intensive surveillance efforts for necrotizing fasciitis in the United States have not been conducted since 1991.
Persons of all ages may be infected although most disease occurs in adults. Necrotizing fasciitis often begins at the site of a break in the skin (e.g., a surgical or non-surgical wound). In children, rare cases occur as complications of chickenpox.
Treatment for Necrotizing fasciitis
Treatment of necrotizing fasciitis is most effective if the infection is recognized in time. Antibiotics and surgical removal of dead tissue are required. If the tissue destruction is widespread, extensive surgery or amputation might be the only way to prevent death. While early diagnosis and treatment are the key to preventing devastating tissue destruction, physicians and patients often fail to recognize necrotizing fasciitis and its severity. Being rare, and with an onset that resembles flu-like symptoms, it is often missed until the infection has advanced. One alerting sign is unusually severe pain - far greater than normal for a cut or wound - and painful lymph nodes. For example, a cut on the toe or a surgical leg wound, followed some hours later by severe pain either in the toe, leg, or in the groin (as the infection travels to the lymph nodes), can warn of this potentially deadly, fast-spreading infection.
Tips on preventing and treating Necrotizing fasciitis
The most important prevention step is observation. Many times, people who acquire Necrotizing Fasciitis could be saved from death, or serious dismemberment, if immediate action was taken to arrest the progress of the disease. Often times, people wait days to respond to health care facilities. Due to the rapid nature of progression, this gives health care facilities no time to reduce the damage that has already occurred. If someone experiences any uncharacteristic pain for the resulting injury, they should immediately go to a health care facility to have any instance of GAS diagnosed, or ruled out.
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