Last updated date: 02-Nov-2023
Originally Written in English
Sepsis is a possibly fatal disease that happens when the body's immune system attacks its tissues in response to an infection. When the body's infection-fighting mechanisms kick in, organs work poorly and abnormally.
With sepsis, inflammation and blood clotting decrease blood flow towards the limbs and major organs. This can result in organ failure and sometimes death. More than 1.5 million people in the United States are detected with sepsis each year, with about 30 percent of patients dying.
Signs and Symptoms of Sepsis
Sepsis is divided into three stages, including sepsis, extreme sepsis, and septic shock. Sepsis may strike when you are still recuperating in the hospital, although this is not usually the case. If you experience any sepsis-related symptoms, you should seek medical help right away. The sooner you seek help, the better your chances are of surviving.
The signs and symptoms of sepsis can include;
- A fever of more than 101°F (38°C) or a temperature of less than 96.8°F (36°C)
- A high heart rate of more than 90 beats a minute
- A rate of breathing greater than 20 breaths a minute
- Infection, whether probable or confirmed
Before a doctor diagnoses sepsis, you must at least experience two of these signs.
When there is organ failure, severe sepsis develops. For the doctor to diagnose you with serious sepsis, you must have one or more of these symptoms;
- Discolored skin patches
- Reduced urination
- Alterations of mental capacity
- Platelet count (blood clotting cells) is low
- Breathing difficulties
- Irregular heart functions
- Chills as a result of a drop in body temperature
- Severe weakness
Septic shock is a sudden fall in blood pressure that causes major changes in the way cells function and generate energy. The possibility of death increases as the condition progresses to septic shock. The following are symptoms of septic shock;
- The need for medicine to keep systolic blood pressure at or above 65 mm Hg.
- Lactic acid levels in the blood are high (serum lactate). Your cells are not using oxygen appropriately if you have too much lactic acid in the bloodstream.
Causes of Sepsis
The most common trigger and cause of sepsis is a bacterial infection. Fungal, viral, parasitic infections may also cause sepsis. The disease may originate in a variety of locations all over the body. The following are examples of common infection sites and forms that can result in sepsis;
The abdomen: Infection around the appendix (appendicitis), bowel complications, abdominal cavity (peritonitis) infection, and liver or gallbladder infections are all conditions that can cause sepsis.
Lungs: An infection of the lungs, including pneumonia.
The central nervous system: The infections of the spinal cord or the brain.
The skin: At times, bacteria may reach the skin through skin inflammation or wounds, as well as via the openings created by intravenous (IV) catheters. These are tubes inserted into the body to administer or remove fluids. Sepsis may also occur due to conditions like cellulitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue within the skin.
Urinary tract (bladder or kidneys): The sepsis urinary tract infections are more likely when the patient is using a urinary catheter to remove urine.
Risk Factors of Sepsis
While other people tend to have high risks of developing the infection, any person can acquire sepsis. The potential risk factors of sepsis syndrome include;
- Age; older adults and young children
- Individuals with the compromised immune system, including HIV patients, and those undergoing chemotherapy cancer treatment
- Chronic liver or kidney disorders
- Invasive techniques like breathing tubes and IV catheters
- Intensive care unit admission or prolonged stays in the hospital
- Initial use of corticosteroids or antibiotics
Is Sepsis Contagious?
Sepsis is not an infectious disease. The pathogens that triggered the initial infection that result in sepsis, on the other hand, might be contagious. Sepsis travels via the bloodstream from the initial infection source to different organs in a person's body.
If you experience sepsis symptoms, the doctor will recommend tests to diagnose you and assess how serious your infection is. A blood examination is one of the first tests performed. The physician can examine your blood for problems such as;
- Clotting issues
- Kidney or liver function problems
- Reduced oxygen supply
- Electrolyte imbalance: a mineral imbalance that affects the level of water in the body as well as the acidity in the bloodstream
Your doctor can order additional tests based on your symptoms and the outcome of your blood examination or test, such as;
- A urine examination to test for bacteria in the urine
- An assessment of wound secretion to look an open wound for an infection
- An examination for mucus secretion to determine germs causing an infection
If these tests fail to identify the root of an infection, your doctor can order one of the following internal views of the body;
X-ray: Doctors can use x-rays to diagnose lung infections.
Ultrasound: This technology involves the use of sound waves to create real-time pictures on a video display. The use of ultrasound to search for infections within the kidneys and gallbladder is especially helpful.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This is a technique that utilizes radio waves and a powerful magnetic field to create cross-sectional or three-dimensional pictures of the internal body structures. MRIs can aid in the detection of bone and soft tissue infections.
Computerized tomography (CT) scan: This method uses a combination of x-rays images taken from various angles to create cross-sectional slices of the internal body structures. CT scans make infections in the pancreas, liver, and other abdominal organs more visible.
Early and intensive treatment improves the chances of a successful recovery. Sepsis patients need to be closely monitored and treated in a hospital intensive care unit. To regulate breathing and heart rate, lifesaving measures can be necessary.
Medical providers can recommend the following treatment options depending on the severity of the condition:
Your doctor can prescribe various medications to treat sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. These drugs include;
Antibiotics: The antibiotics treatment should start as soon as possible. Antibiotics with a broad spectrum of action, which are effective on a wide range of bacteria, are normally given first. Following the blood test results, the doctor may turn to an antibiotic that is specifically designed to combat the bacteria that is contributing to the infection.
Vasopressors: If the blood pressure is too low after getting intravenous fluids, a vasopressor drug might be prescribed. This medication helps to raise blood pressure by constricting blood vessels.
Intravenous fluids: Using intravenous fluids should commence as soon as possible.
In addition, the doctor can recommend other sepsis medication such as;
- Lower corticosteroids doses
- Insulin to assist keep healthy blood sugar levels
- Medicines that alter immune system responses
- Sedatives or painkillers
On other occasions, the doctor can recommend a surgical procedure to take out the roots of the infection. They can include the infected tissues, dead or damaged tissues (gangrene), and pus accumulation (abscesses).
Patients with sepsis can also get supportive treatment, which involves oxygen. You might require the assistance of a machine to make breathing easier, according to your current condition. In addition, you might need dialysis in case your kidneys have been damaged.
You can prevent sepsis by taking preventative measures and seeking timely care for any infections that occur. Other preventive options include;
- Regular vaccinations, such as those for pneumonia and flu
- Taking precautions to avoid sepsis wounds and sores, as well as keeping those that do arise clean, always
- Sticking to the guidelines of hand-washing
- If there are symptoms of an infection aggravating, seek medical help right away
Sepsis in Newborns
When the infant develops a sepsis blood infection in the first month of his or her life, it's called neonatal sepsis. Neonatal sepsis is divided into two categories depending on when the infection occurred. It can be during the delivery phase (early-onset) or after delivery (late-onset). This enables the doctor to determine the appropriate treatment.
Since their body defense mechanisms are immature, premature babies and low birth weight are more vulnerable to late-onset sepsis. Although certain signs are subtle and nonspecific, they can include;
- Poor breastfeeding
- Body temperature that is too low
- Apnea (temporary cessation of breathing)
- Febrile illness
- Looking pale
- Poor skin circulation and cold extremities
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Whitening of the eyes and yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
- Feeding issues
Neonatal sepsis remains one of the leading causes of infant mortality. However, with prompt diagnosis and cure, the baby will fully recover and have no further complications. The danger of neonatal sepsis has dramatically decreased as a result of universal maternal screening and appropriate neonatal testing.
It is essential to note that sepsis is a life-threatening condition as the infection tends to spread rapidly, every single minute and hour count. Sepsis is characterized by a variety of symptoms rather than a single sign. If you think you have sepsis, seek medical help right away, particularly if you have a certain known infection.