Preventing gangrene 

There are a number of things you can do to help lower your risk of developing gangrene.

Foot care

If you have diabetes or another long-term condition that can cause atherosclerosis (hardening or thickening of the arteries), it's important you take extra care of your feet.

If you have diabetes, you should have your feet checked at least once a year. However, you may need more frequent check-ups if you have additional risk factors, such as peripheral neuropathy (numbness in the hands and feet), or a history of foot ulcers.

The advice listed below can help prevent a diabetic foot ulcer developing:

  • Check your feet daily for problems such as numbness, discolouration, breaks in the skin, pain or swelling. Report problems to your GP immediately.
  • Avoid walking barefoot outside and wearing shoes without socks.
  • Don't use chemical preparations for corns and calluses or ingrown toenails. Instead, contact a podiatrist (a healthcare professional who specialises in foot care).
  • Wash your feet daily with warm water. Afterwards, make sure you dry your feet thoroughly, particularly between the toes.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly and don't squeeze or rub. Ill-fitting shoes can cause corns and callouses, ulcers and nail problems.

If you have a history of foot ulcers, wearing specially designed therapeutic or orthopaedic shoes can help prevent further ulcers developing. Your podiatrist may be able to provide you with specially made-to-measure footwear, or they may be able to recommend a stockist.

Find out more about taking care of your feet and living with diabetes.

Smoking

Smoking can cause your arteries to become blocked, resulting in a loss of blood supply to your arms or legs. This is known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

If you decide to stop smoking, your GP will be able to refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking Service, which will provide dedicated help and advice about the best ways to give up. You can also call the NHS Smoking Helpline on 0300 123 1044.

If you're committed to giving up smoking but don't want to be referred to a stop smoking service, your GP should be able to prescribe medical treatment to help with any withdrawal symptoms you may experience.

For more information about giving up smoking, see stop smoking treatments and stop smoking advice.

Diet

Eating an unhealthy diet high in fat will make any existing atherosclerosis worse and increase your risk of developing gangrene.

Continuing to eat high-fat foods will cause more fatty plaques to build-up in your arteries. This is because fatty foods contain cholesterol.

There are two types of fat – saturated and unsaturated. Avoid foods that contain saturated fats because they increase levels of "bad cholesterol" in your blood.

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • meat pies
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter
  • ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking)
  • lard
  • cream
  • hard cheese
  • cakes and biscuits
  • food containing coconut or palm oil

Read more about healthy eating and facts about fat.

Alcohol

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will cause your blood pressure to rise, and also raise the level of cholesterol in your blood.

Recommended daily limits of alcohol consumption are:

  • 3-4 units for men
  • 2-3 units for women

A unit of alcohol is equal to about half a pint of normal strength lager, half a standard glass of wine, or a pub measure (25ml) of spirits.

Read more about alcohol units and get tips on cutting down.

Exercise

A healthy, well-balanced diet and regular exercise will keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels at a healthy level, helping prevent your blood vessels becoming damaged.

Unless advised otherwise by your doctor, you should be aiming for at least 150 minutes (two-and-a-half hours) of moderately intense physical exercise a week.

Moderate intensity physical activity is any activity that increases your heart and breathing rate. It may make you sweat but you'll still be able to hold a normal conversation. Examples include:

You should choose physical activities you enjoy because you're more likely to continue doing them.

It's probably unrealistic to meet these exercise targets immediately if you haven't exercised much in the past. Aim to start gradually and build up the amount of exercise you do over time.

Read more about health and fitness and getting active your way.


Page last reviewed: 13/10/2015

Next review due: 13/10/2017