Necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease, occurs due to an infection that leads to death in parts of the body’s soft tissue. It is a severe disease that begins suddenly and spreads rapidly. Patients with necrotizing fasciitis will experience fever, severe pain, vomiting, and purplish-red skin in the affected area.
The most common sites that are affected are the perineum and limbs. The infection usually begins when the pathogen enters the body through a wound or cut. The risk of necrotizing fasciitis is higher if the individual has poor immune function due to cancer or diabetes, intravenous drug use, peripheral vascular disease, and alcoholism. It does not usually spread between people. This disease can be divided into four types based on the organism responsible for the infection. It has been estimated that 55 to 80 percent of cases involves more than one bacterium. Approximately 33 percent of cases involve methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
Prevention includes handwashing and proper wound care. Treatment involves surgery to remove infected tissue and intravenous antibiotics. Combinations of antibiotics such as vancomycin, penicillin G, gentamicin, and clindamycin can be used. When surgery is delayed, it has been associated with a higher risk of death. Despite quality treatment, the risk of death from necrotizing fasciitis has been estimated to be between 25 to 35 percent. It occurs in approximately 0.4 per 100,000 individuals in the United States. While both sexes are equally affected, it is more common among older individuals and rarely seen in children. This article discusses 10 causes of necrotizing fasciitis.
Cause #1: Chemotherapy or Radiotherapy
Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer. Chemotherapeutic agents are given with an aim to cure, reduce symptoms, or prolong life. Generally, chemotherapy can be thought of as a method to damage cells, which can result in cell death. Radiotherapy refers to therapy given using ionizing radiation. It is most often used for cancer treatment to kill or control malignant cells. It can be used with an aim to cure or as part of adjuvant therapy.
Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy weaken the immune system and patients will have a higher risk of various infections such as from the naturally occurring microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. It also increases the likelihood of necrotizing fasciitis.