What is Fournier’s Gangrene?
Fournier’s Gangrene is necrotising fasciitis of the male genitals. Necrotising fasciitis is a bacterial infection commonly referred to as the ‘flesh-eating disease’. It occurs when a type of bacteria – usually the Group A Streptococcus bacteria – get into the body.
The bacteria are able enter the body via a break in the skin, no matter how large or small. This may be something such as an injury, a burn or a surgical incision. Alternatively another infection may precede Fournier’s Gangrene, such as a urinary tract infection or sexually transmitted disease.
Once inside the body, the bacteria multiply, releasing a poisonous toxin as they do so. This destroys the surrounding tissue and underlying fascia, restricting the blood supply. Consequently the tissue will be starved of oxygen and will begin to die – which in medical terms is called becoming ‘necrotic’. Once it is necrotic the tissue cannot be saved.
If Fournier’s Gangrene is left untreated, the bacteria will continue to reproduce at an alarming rate. This means the area of infection will grow ever larger and more and more tissue will become necrotic.
Who can get Fournier’s Gangrene?
Anyone can get Fournier’s Gangrene, although some men will be more at risk than others. This includes men who:
- Have diabetes
- Are over 50 years old
- Have a weakened immune system
- Have liver failure
- Have kidney disease
- Are alcoholics
Fournier’s Gangrene may also arise as a secondary infection of the lower urinary tract and genital area. Therefore men who have had an infection involving their urethra, penis or scrotum are also more at risk. Ultimately, however, Fournier’s Gangrene can affect anyone – even men who are in perfect health.
Fournier’s Gangrene and the outlook for recovery
Fournier’s Gangrene is a medical emergency and must be diagnosed and treated without delay if a patient is going to make a good recovery. If the infection is allowed to continue, the area of necrosis will quickly grow and a patient will become extremely unwell. This will lead to a severe defect and a prolonged recovery. In some cases Fournier’s Gangrene will be fatal.