Donovanosis isn’t the only flesh-eating condition that affects the genitals. Another one, Fournier’s gangrene, has a similar progression. Fournier’s gangrene is an infection in the scrotum, penis, or perineum. It is a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection of the tissue under the skin that surrounds muscles, nerves, fat, and blood vessels. It most often infects men between the ages of 50 and 60. Men are 10 times more likely than women to have Fournier’s gangrene.
The bacteria usually get into the body through a cut or break in the skin, where they quickly spread and destroy the tissue they infect. “It can start with a nick to a hair follicle during shaving,” says Dr. Brian Steixner, M.D., Director of the Institute of Men’s Health at Jersey Urology Group in Atlantic City. “A very specific bacteria gets under the skin, and it travels fast. It basically starts to eat away at all the skin.”
Horrifyingly, people can contract Fornier’s through their diabetes medication. The FDA has released a warning about sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors, medication used treat type 2 diabetes. But it’s extremely rare.
“Seven cases out of 7 million prescriptions,” said Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE, founder of Integrated Diabetes Services, author of “Think Like a Pancreas,” and a 2014 diabetes educator of the year. “That makes it literally a one-in-a-million event.”