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What is necrotising fasciitis?

Photo: What is necrotising fasciitis?
Necrotising Fasciitis is defined as a rapidly spreading serious bacterial skin infection. It is a rare disease amongst the healthy and will kill you if not treated. Commonly know as the “flesh-eating infection” this disease is not caused by a single bacteria but can be initiated by a number of dangerous bacterium. Amongst these are:

  • Group A Streptococcus
  • Klebsiella
  • Clostridium
  • Escherichia coli
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Aeromonas hydrophila

These bacteria infect the soft tissue layer of skin known as fascia which is composed of connective bands of tissue surrounding muscles, nerve fibres fat and vital blood vessels. When this infection spreads and completely destroys the tissue the situation becomes a medical emergency and the infected person can die or has to have limbs amputated.
How is it spread?

Necrotising Fasciitis is not commonly spread from person to person. Most cases of this disease are entirely random and not connected to cases of infection in others. Causative bacterium commonly enter the skin through breakages such as cuts, scrapes, burns or insect bites.

This disease spreads more rapidly in those whose immune systems are already compromised. These include the elderly and people suffering from diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease or cancer.

Symptoms

One of the issues surrounding prompt treatment of this disease is its confusing symptoms. Commonly symptoms are seen following a previous injury and feel as though an illness is coming up. Those infected often complain of pain, soreness and the feeling that a muscle has been pulled. Their skin is warm to touch and starts to show purplish bruising that rapidly spreads to serious wounds. These symptoms will accompany severe fatigue, fever and chills.

Treatment

As this disease spreads rapidly and is life threatening, treatment must be prompt. The first step is the administration of antibiotics through a needle into the patient’s vein. As bacterial infection may have destroyed blood vessels and reduced blood flow to the infected area, antibiotics may not be as effective. Hence urgent surgical procedures are undertaken to remove dead tissue and allow the antibiotics to work.

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