Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare infection of the soft connective tissue (fascia) that runs throughout the body. It occurs when bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin, such as injury, surgery, or IV drug use.
You may hear the term “flesh-eating disease” because the infection spreads so fast. Doctors treat it with antibiotics and surgery.
Although necrotizing fasciitis isn't common, it can be deadly if not treated in time.
Call the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases to learn more or make an appointment at 412-647-7228 or 1-877-788-7228.
Necrotizing fasciitis is a fast-moving infection of the fascia.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates there are 700 to 1,200 cases of necrotizing fasciitis per year in the U.S. Most people who get the disease have other health problems.
Sometimes people call necrotizing fasciitis “flesh-eating disease” because the infection spreads very quickly. The bacteria don't actually "eat" flesh, but they do release toxins that damage tissue.
Necrotizing fasciitis can lead to organ failure, sepsis, and even death.
It occurs equally in men and women.
Group A strep bacteria is the most common cause of flesh-eating disease. But other types of bacteria can also cause it.
Bacteria can enter the body through:
Anyone can get necrotizing fasciitis, but it's rare for an otherwise healthy person to get it. People who get the disease often have other health problems that weaken the body's immune system.
Flesh-eating disease isn't contagious, but people can become colonized with bacteria — often Group A strep — that can cause it.
Risk factors for necrotizing fasciitis include:
Complications from necrotizing fasciitis are serious. The disease spreads quickly through the body, so doctors need to treat it fast.
Untreated, flesh-eating disease can lead to:
Good hygiene and wound care are the best ways to prevent the disease.
Flesh-eating disease forms quickly.
It's vital to get medical help right away if you have any of these symptoms, especially after an injury or surgery:
Diagnosing necrotizing fasciitis can be hard since early symptoms (fever, pain) are much like those of other infections.
To help diagnose flesh-eating disease, your doctor may:
If you have flesh-eating disease, you need prompt treatment in a hospital.
Your doctor may treat necrotizing fasciitis with:
The expert care team at UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases:
To learn more about the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases or to make an appointment, call 412-647-7228 or 1-877-788-7228.