Did I give myself gangrene?
December 23, 2010 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Did I accidentally give myself gangrene?

I fell asleep with a wrist brace on too tight. When I woke up seven hours later, my hand was swollen and tight. There is no discoloration. My hand is still a bit stiff and numb. When I press down on my skin, color fills in the white. My skin is a bit red in spots from under the bandage. Should I be worried? What should I look out for?
posted by omoikkiri to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
Eh, IANAD but as long as you still have feeling you should be fine. Believe me, you'd know if you had gangrene. Sounds like your hand's just a bit sore.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:20 AM on December 23, 2010

Hee... I know you're worried, but gangrene is more of an end product that a symptom. If you can feel and move your hand and the skin IS turning pink again after you press it, you don't have much to worry about, kiddo. What to worry about? Pretty much the opposite - lack of sensation, lack of movement, (apparent) lack of blood flow. Our bodies are good at recovering from silly stuff like that, for the most part.
posted by julthumbscrew at 11:21 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

IANYD but I would not be worried based on your description of this.

The swelling, redness, and tightness sound like what could be expected after wearing a too-tight wrist brace. The fact that there is no discoloration suggests that you did not have the wrist brace tight enough to cut off blood flow to your hand. The 'color fill-in' that you describe is called 'capillary refill', meaning the capillaries - tiny blood vessels that supply your skin. If the color fills in in less than 2 seconds, that's normal, and it means your blood flow/hydration status is good.

The numbness and swelling should go away fairly soon after you loosened up the brace. Also, you should know that cutting off blood flow to a body part is painful - try putting a rubber band around your finger and you'll see what I mean. It doesn't sound like what you've done is particularly painful.

The main you want to look out for in a case like this (where it doesn't look like you cut off blood flow to the affected area, but you may have compromised it somehow) would be a 'compartment syndrome'. That being said, from your description, it does not sound like you have this problem. Just be careful with the brace in the future.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:21 AM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think you gave yourself obdormition, or your hand fell asleep. It is possible that if it was like that for several hours, you could have some nerve damage, especially if you're still numb hours later. Ask your doctor if you're concerned.
posted by Gator at 11:23 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

How long are we talking about between waking up and still feeling these symptoms?
posted by J. Wilson at 11:36 AM on December 23, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for your replies.

I didn't know if gangrene was something that was slow onset or not. This morning my hand was very, very swollen. Now it's not swollen at all. I didn't know if this initial swelling had set the seed for something to come--and whether I needed to go to urgent care or something. I don't really know much about gangrene, just that it can occur from someone sleeping on their arm and cutting off circulation!

The swelling lessened around an hour later. The numbness remained for about two hours. It's hard to say if the numbness wasn't coming from my tendonitis, the reason I was even wearing the brace to begin with.

Right now (approximately ten hours later), my hand is a little prickly and a little sore. It's just a bit stiff, but only in the palm. I have a bit of a dull ache now and then. I've been taking ibuprofen. My sense of touch is okay, my capillary refill is two seconds or less, and there's still no discoloration. I neglected to mention whether there was discoloration this morning. I don't think so, but I don't know for sure, as I ripped off the brace pretty quickly!

Now I should probably stop moving my hand and making things worse.
posted by omoikkiri at 3:56 PM on December 23, 2010

I don't really know much about gangrene, just that it can occur from someone sleeping on their arm and cutting off circulation!

If just sleeping on your arm wrong could give an otherwise healthy person gangrene that easily, nobody would have any arms. This would be the case also if it were so easy to get gangrene from wearing a wrist brace too tight overnight. Unless your wrist and hand are really numb to begin with, you would not be able to sleep if you had a wrist brace on so tight that it would kill your hand from having it on for a few hours.

Unless you become bedridden, diabetic, or you pass out from a drug/alcohol overdose, you probably don't have to worry about getting gangrene from things like this. If you learn more about gangrene, you will probably feel better about that.
posted by wondermouse at 9:20 PM on December 23, 2010

Second wondermouse's point about drugs and alcohol - I've never seen bad circulatory things happen to a sober person who's fallen asleep on something, only people who were under the influence. Sober people feel the discomfort and move or wake up.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:42 PM on December 23, 2010

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