Infections

Necrotizing Fasciitis (Skin Infection)

This includes types of bacterial skin infection which, while predominantly affecting the skin. It may also expand to include the subcutaneous tissue, muscle and fat. The medical term "necrosis" actually refers to the death of the body's cells or tissues. Essentially, necrotizing fasciitis results in the destruction of the cellular makeup of the skin and subcutaneous tissue. For this reason, necrotizing fasciitis is often referred to as a flesh-eating bacterial infection, because the bacterium literally eats through the layers of skin.

Although in rare instances necrotizing fasciitis may be caused by certain strains of fungi, the condition typically occurs as the result of some type of bacterial infection. The most common strains of bacteria known to cause necrotizing fasciitis are group A streptococci and staphylococci. However, it is important to note that when the wound is cultured, other types of bacteria may be found, including non-aerobic organisms like E. coli, klebsiella and pseudomonas. Many medical scientists have concluded that non-aerobic bacteria are capable of damaging the tissues to the extent that oxygen to the area is significantly decreased, which then gives aerobic organisms like streptococci and staphylococci the opportunity to reproduce and expand.

Although necrotizing fasciitis is somewhat rare, recent studies have indicated that about 25 percent of patients die from the progression of the condition. It is important to be aware of the risk factors for necrotizing fasciitis. In general, patients with immune deficiency disorders like diabetes, cancer and kidney disease have a much greater risk for developing necrotizing fasciitis because of the compromised state of the immune system. In addition, it is important to note that steroids are considered an immunocompromising agent; patients taking steroids for various different medical conditions should be aware of the elevated risk factor this causes.

The primary method of transfer for bacteria causing necrotizing fasciitis is through the skin. This means that open wounds are of particular concern for transmission. Wounds like bedsores and postsurgical incisions will increase a patient's risk for developing necrotizing fasciitis.