What you need to know about Gangrene that caused Gomora actor Israel Matseke-Zulu to lose his leg

Talented actor and media personality Israel Matseke-Zulu suffered a huge blow when he lost his leg due to gangrene. The actor who portrays the character of villainous gangster ‘Don’ on Mzansi Magic’s popular telenovela Gomora, had his leg amputated due to a life-threatening condition.

A local publication reports that a source close to the actor said that he had an operation at a Sandton hospital two weeks ago.

Matseke-Zulu, who’s been open about his struggle with gangrene, and previously revealed the gangrene was so bad towards the end of his contract that he had trouble walking and resorted to using a wheelchair. Because of this, he asked Gomora’s producers to let him go from the show.

Here is what you need to know about the life-threatening condition of gangrene.

What Is Gangrene?

Gangrene is a serious medical condition in which lack of blood supply to body tissues causes the tissue to die. Although anybody tissues can be affected, gangrene most commonly starts in the fingers, toes, hands and feet.

Gangrene can be fatal if left untreated.

What causes gangrene?

Gangrene can develop when the supply of blood to an area of your body is interrupted.

This can occur as the result of an injury, an infection, or an underlying condition that affects your circulation.

Who’s Most At Risk of Contracting Gangrene?

Gangrene is more likely to develop in individuals who have underlying health conditions that can affect the blood vessels and arteries and those with a weakened immune system.

The underlying health conditions include:

  • diabetes – a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high, which can damage nerves and blood vessels
  • atherosclerosis – where arteries narrow and become clogged with a fatty substance known as plaque
  • peripheral arterial disease – where a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries restricts blood supply to leg muscles
  • Raynaud’s – where blood vessels in certain parts of the body, usually the fingers or toes, react abnormally to cold temperatures

Weakened Immune System

If your immune system is seriously weakened, minor infections can become more serious and can lead to gangrene. A weak immune system can be caused by:

  • chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • HIV
  • diabetes
  • long-term alcohol misuse
  • injecting drugs, such as heroin
  • malnutrition
  • being over 60 years of age (the older you are, the less efficient your immune system is)
  • obesity
  • kidney failure

Injuries and surgery

You’re also at an increased risk of developing gangrene if you experience a traumatic injury or serious damage to your skin and tissues, such as:

  • a serious injury – for example, during a car accident
  • a burn
  • frostbite

These injuries can cause a sudden loss of blood to an area of your body, and any open wounds can become infected with bacteria.

Gangrene can also occur as a result of an infection that develops during surgery. However, with advances in surgical techniques and infection control, the chances of gangrene developing during surgery are small nowadays.

What are the signs and symptoms of gangrene?

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:

  • initial redness and swelling
  • either a loss of sensation or severe pain in the affected area
  • sores or blisters that bleed or release a dirty-looking or foul-smelling discharge (if the gangrene is caused by an infection)
  • the skin becoming cold and pale

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 doctor immediately if you have:

  • any of the symptoms of gangrene mentioned above
  • a persistent fever
  • a wound that’s unusually slow to heal

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:

  • a rapid but weak pulse
  • dizziness when you stand up
  • a change in your mental state, such as confusion or disorientation
  • breathing difficulties
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • cold, clammy and pale skin

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