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Recognizing Necrotizing Fasciitis

Recognizing Necrotizing Fasciitis

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bacterial infection

Immediate medical attention is needed in the case of necrotizing fasciitis.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a bacterial infection, one that destroys the tissue and muscles beneath the skin. Most notably caused by group A Streptococcus, it can also be caused by the aeromonas hydrophila, clostridium, E. coli, klebsiella and staphylococcus aureus bacteria. This infection is commonly known due to pop culture and media coverage, however, it’s really quite rare. While there are fewer than 20,000 cases in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it does require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms

The initial symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis may not seem serious. Patients may experience flu-like symptoms while an area of skin may be warm, red and achy. As the infection quickly spreads, the tissue begins to decay and causes blisters and wounds on the infected area. It’s been described by patients as being much more painful than it initially looks. You will quickly know that this isn’t just an infected wound. If the damage isn’t showing on the surface of the skin very much, a blood test or CT scan may be done to see if there is anything going on under the surface of your wound.

Most common causes

The disease-causing bacteria have to enter an open wound. This commonly happens in open water and public pools, especially if the water is warm. This can also happen when bedridden patients develop pressure sores. The deeper the wound is, the easier it is for the bacteria to get to the fascia, or the bands surrounding the muscles.

Treatment

Strong antibiotics are delivered into the veins so they get through the bloodstream quickly, and surgery may be needed. Doctors will remove dead tissue and infected fluids as quickly as possible, but if tissue damage is extensive, amputation of the limb affected may be needed to halt the infection from spreading.

Prevention

Avoid swimming in open water, pools or hot tubs when you have an open wound. Treat your open wounds promptly, sanitizing and dressing them as needed. If you develop a pressure sore, be sure to move as much as possible. Most people with healthy immune systems won’t develop necrotizing fasciitis, even if they’re exposed to the bacteria that causes it. People with cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes or compromised immune systems are more likely to develop it. It’s not likely to be spread from person to person, since the bacteria has to open through open wounds on the skin.

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