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Flesh-Eating Disease

Flesh-Eating Disease

Necrotising fasciitis is a serious bacterial infection that is often referred to as the flesh-eating disease. The condition must be diagnosed and treated without delay if devastating complications are to be avoided.

What is the flesh-eating disease?

When people talk about the flesh-eating disease, they are usually describing the bacterial infection necrotising fasciitis. This can be caught by anyone, although there are some factors that increase the risk, including obesity and a poor immune system.

Necrotising fasciitis happens when a certain type of bacteria get into the body's soft tissues via a break in the skin. This can be through a break as small as a paper cut or pinprick. Once inside the body, the bacteria reproduce at a rapid rate, during which they release a toxin that causes the tissue to break down.

Within a very short space of time, the tissue will have sustained so much damage that it dies. This is called tissue necrosis. At this stage an open wound will develop, and this will become increasingly large in size as the bacteria continue to reproduce. It is for this reason that necrotising fasciitis is dubbed the flesh-eating disease.

Diagnosing and treating the flesh-eating disease

If left untreated, the flesh-eating disease can be fatal. This is because the bacteria will continue to multiply, causing more and more tissue to break down. Within days the area of tissue necrosis will be extensive, resulting in a horrendous defect.

It is also likely that the bacteria will spread to the blood, which may lead to septic shock and organ failure. These complications can be fatal. It is therefore vital that medical professionals diagnose and treat necrotising fasciitis in the early stages.

A diagnosis can be achieved by recognising a patient's symptoms. Necrotising fasciitis will cause an intense pain at the site of infection that is disproportionate to the injury (if an injury can even be seen). A patient will also feel unwell with flu-like symptoms. As the infection progresses the skin will be red and hot to touch, and will begin to turn dark red to purple in colour.

Even if medical practitioners have not come across necrotising fasciitis before, these symptoms should clearly indicate that a serious infection is present. Further tests can then be ordered to determine the type of infection. Once diagnosed, medical professionals should know that emergency surgery to remove the necrotic tissue is required; more than one operation may be needed.

Delayed diagnosis and treatment

If medical professionals fail to diagnose and treat necrotising fasciitis in a timely fashion, the consequences will be serious. A patient and their family may be entitled to claim compensation for the wrongful damage that has been caused by medical error. Contact us today to find out more.

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