Sepsis is a potentially fatal condition caused by the immune system’s reaction to an infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 1.7 million cases of sepsis every year. Also, about 270,000 people in the United States die yearly from this infection. (CDC, 2021) Although your immune system protects you from many diseases and infections, it can go into overdrive in response to an infection.
Symptoms of Sepsis
When you get an infection, your immune system fights it by releasing proteins and other chemicals. Sepsis develops when this response is uncontrolled, resulting in widespread inflammation.
The symptoms of sepsis are fever, a rapid heart rate, and difficulty breathing. It is a dangerous condition that necessitates immediate medical attention.
Septic shock, a medical emergency, can result from severe sepsis. It can be fatal if not treated. Septic shock symptoms include a significant drop in blood pressure, organ failure, and extensive tissue destruction. (Cleveland Clinic)
Causes of Sepsis
Bacterial infections are the most common cause of Sepsis. Infections with fungi, parasites, or viruses can also cause sepsis. The infection could start in any number of places throughout the body. Appendicitis of the appendix, intestinal problems, abdominal cavity infection (peritonitis), and gallbladder or liver infection are a few common examples. It can also affect the brain and spinal cord and cause them to have an impact on the central nervous system.
Urinary tract infections (kidneys or bladder) are bacterial infections prevalent in urinary catheter patients. Additionally, bacteria can enter the skin via wounds, skin irritation, and intravenous (IV) catheter holes (tubes inserted into the body to give or drain fluids). Sepsis can also be caused by cellulitis (inflammation of the skin’s connective tissue). (Yale Medicine)
Stages Of Sepsis
The three stages of sepsis are Sepsis, severe Sepsis, and Septic Shock. Septic Shock is the final stage, and the recovery rate falls to half in this stage.
Stage 1: Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS)
The first stage of Sepsis is when an infection enters the bloodstream and causes inflammation throughout the body. The symptoms that follow are high or low body temperature, a fast heart rate, a fast breathing rate, and a high or low white blood cell count. The above symptoms diagnose Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS).
Stage 2: Severe Sepsis
The second stage, called Severe Sepsis, is when an organ stops working immediately. Severe sepsis is diagnosed when low blood pressure or a lack of blood flow is also present (decreased blood flow through an organ).
Organ malfunction symptoms include:
- Less urine production
- Sudden changes in mental state
- A low number of blood platelets
- Trouble breathing
- An irregular heartbeat
- Stomach pain
Urine output is one of the things that is diagnosed and monitored to track its progress.
Stage 3: Septic Shock
The most dangerous stage of Sepsis is called Septic Shock. Small blood clots can form throughout the body, preventing oxygen and blood from reaching essential organs. This may increase the probability of organ failure, tissue death, and gangrene. (O’Connell, Healthline)
Who Is At Risk Of Getting Sepsis?
Sepsis can affect anyone, but the risk is higher for babies under one, especially if they are premature or if the mother had an infection while pregnant. Additionally, people above the age of 75 with diabetes, the ones with a weakened immune system, such as those receiving chemotherapy or who have recently undergone an organ transplant are also at risk.
Different Ways To Treat Sepsis
People with sepsis, especially those who have undergone septic shock, are usually taken to the intensive care unit of a hospital to get appropriate care and be monitored. The sooner Sepsis is found and treated; the more likely the person will fully recover. Fluids given through an IV, antibiotics, medicines for high blood pressure, and breathing machines are sometimes used to treat septic shock. Sometimes treatments, like steroids, vitamins, or surgery, are also needed to eliminate an infection’s source. (Yale Medicine)
The first step in treating Sepsis symptoms is to recognize them. Sepsis is a medical emergency, and early diagnosis and treatment can improve survival chances. If you suspect you have Sepsis, seek immediate medical attention, especially if you have a known illness.
O’Connell, Krista. “Sepsis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Risks, and More.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 4 Jan. 2022, www.healthline.com/health/sepsis.
Cleveland Clinic. “Sepsis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12361-sepsis.
NHS choices. NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/sepsis/who-can-get-it/.
Yale Medicine. “Sepsis: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment.” Yale Medicine, Yale Medicine, 10 Dec. 2019, www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/sepsis.