What is Pyoderma Gangrenosum?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2018
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Pyoderma gangrenosum is a rare skin disorder in which deep wounds not related to injury form on the skin. This disorder is typically limited to the legs, but can develop on any area of the skin’s surface. This disorder does not have a specific cause, but tends to occur most often in people with conditions that cause inflammation of the joints or internal organs.

The symptoms of pyoderma gangrenosum start to form slowly and may not appear to be anything out of the ordinary. A person with the disorder may first notice a minor swollen red area on his or her skin that looks similar to a pimple or insect bite. As the disorder progresses, the affected area of the skin will usually start to transform into an open wound. The areas near the wounds are typically painful, but the pain can also spread to the bones or joints.

Pyoderma gangrenosum does not have a conclusively proven cause, but it may possibly be a result of an autoimmune disorder. When a person has an autoimmune disorder, his or her body is treating its natural substances as foreign and dangerous, and begins to attack and deteriorate itself. Age may also be a possible factor because people in their 40s and 50s are more likely to have the disorder than other age groups. The disorder also tends to be a symptom of other conditions such as arthritis, hepatitis, or Crohn’s disease.


Since the origins of pyoderma gangrenosum are not completely known, it does not have a cure; however, it can be temporarily treated. A doctor will typically instruct a patient to cover the sores with gauze or recommend that they stay coated with antibacterial ointment. Corticosteroid medication can also be taken to help reduce the swelling of the sores. If the disorder appears to be a symptom of another condition, taking medication or having surgery to treat the underlying condition can help treat pyoderma gangrenosum and keep it from reappearing. For more severe cases, a surgeon may remove a piece of skin from another area of the body and sew it over the open wounds.

If pyoderma gangrenosum is not treated properly, it can have serious health effects. The wounds can become infected and even more swollen and painful, which may lead to deeper wounds or cause the present ones to multiply and spread across the skin. The sores are also more likely to leave permanent scars if they are left without treatment.



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