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The symptoms of gangrene vary depending on the underlying cause. It can affect any part of the body, but typically starts in the toes, feet, fingers or hands.

General symptoms of gangrene include:

Picture of a foot affected by gangrene

In some cases, the affected limb may feel heavy and pressing the skin may produce a crackling sound. These symptoms are caused by a build-up of gas under the skin.

If the area is infected, you may also have other signs related to the underlying infection, such as:

Without treatment the affected tissue will start to die. When this happens, the area changes colour from red to brown to purple or black, before shrivelling up and falling away from the surrounding healthy tissue.

When to seek medical advice

The earlier treatment for gangrene begins, the more effective it's likely to be. Contact your GP immediately if you have:

If your GP isn't available, call NHS 111 or your local out-of-hours service for advice.

When to seek emergency help

If bacteria from gangrene pass into your bloodstream, you could go into septic shock. This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when an infection causes your blood pressure to drop to a dangerously low level.

Signs of septic shock include:

Dial 999 immediately to request an ambulance if you suspect that you or someone you know is in septic shock.