According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sepsis kills more than 258,000 Americans every year, with more than 1 million reported cases each year. But do you really know about this disease? What are the symptoms and how to treat it? Read this article to get related information about it.
What Is Sepsis?
Your body’s immune system is responsible for protecting you from many infections and illnesses. There are cases though where it goes into overdrive when infection enters our body. As a result, a life-threatening illness called sepsis is developed.
It is developed when instead of fighting the infection, the chemicals that were released by the immune system attack its own organs and tissues and cause inflammation. It is commonly caused when a bacterial infection called septicemia enters the blood.
The terms septicemia and sepsis are often used together as the first leads to the latter. Septicemia causes poisons to be released in the blood. As a result, a massive inflammatory is mounted by the immune system as a response to these poisons.
What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Sepsis?
Sepsis is one of the illness that is not fully understood and treatment and diagnoses are still quiet challenging. So to know "what is sepsis", you need to know its symptoms and signs to look out for get early diagnosis and treatment.
Sepsis has three stages: sepsis, severe sepsis and septic shock. Let us discuss the symptoms per stages.
Before your doctor can diagnose that you have sepsis, you must have two of the symptoms below:
A temperature lower than 96.8 F or a fever that is higher than 101 F
At least 90 beats per minute heart rate
Breathing rate that is higher than 20 breaths per minute
A confirmed or suspected infection
This stage of sepsis may happen when you have an organ failure. You may display one or more of these symptoms:
A decrease in urine output
Patches of discolored skin
Decrease in platelet count
A change in mental status
Heart functions that are abnormal
Fall in body temperature which results to chills
Exhaustion and weakness
Pain in the abdominal area
The most serious stage, septic shock needs immediate medical attention. The patient will have a very low blood pressure and exhibit the symptoms of severe sepsis listed above. You need to seek treatment immediately to have greater survival chance.
What Causes Sepsis?
Knowing "what is sepsis" and its symptoms is not enough; getting to know its underlying causes and triggers can help you avoid it in the first place. Sepsis is triggered by an infection in the body – whether it’s viral, bacterial or fungal. While infection in any part of the body can cause sepsis, the most common parts that can lead to sepsis are urinary tract, lung, pelvis and abdomen.
Most cases of sepsis were developed when the patient was already in the hospital. This scenario includes:
A patient that has a urinary catheter fitted
A patient that has undergone a recent surgery
A patient who’s been staying in the hospital for a long period
These are the types of infections that are often associated with sepsis:
Pneumonia or lung infection
Kidney, urethra or bladder infection
An infection of bile ducts or gallbladder
Infections after surgery
Infections of the nervous system and brain infection
Infection of the heart
Infection of the bones
In the United States, cases of sepsis seem to be increasing. This could be brought about by:
Drug-resistant bacteria – Sepsis is triggered because of the increasing number of bacteria that are already resistant to the antibiotic that once can kill them.
Aging population – The lifespan of Americans is now increasing. More people now live longer than 65 years, which is the age group that has higher risk of sepsis.
Weakened immune system – Because of the pollution and other factors that impose risk with our health, many Americans have weak immune system.
Who Are at Higher Risks of Sepsis?
Since you have known how serious it could be, it is important to be aware of its condition and who are at higher risk of getting it.
The following are the people that have higher risk for sepsis:
Weakened immune system – Sepsis are more likely to develop if you have a weak immune system. This can either be caused by an illness (such as AIDS or diabetes) or because they are undergoing a medical treatment that causes their immune system to not function well (such as people taking steroids as a relief for some medical conditions or undergoing chemotherapy for cancer).
Babies – Not only are very young babies more vulnerable in acquiring diseases, they are also susceptible to sepsis since their immune system is not yet fully developed. If they get an infection that has not received an immediate treatment, they will more likely to develop sepsis. It is difficult to diagnoses sepsis in babies as the typical symptoms of sepsis (change in behavior, fever) may not be present.
Elderly – Aside from weakened immune system, those that are having medical conditions such as diabetes have higher risk of sepsis.
Patients that are staying in the hospital – They have higher risk of developing sepsis due to catheters, intravenous lines, bedsores and surgical wounds.
How Is Sepsis Treated?
Now that we have answered the question “what is sepsis?” you may be wondering “what are the treatments that patients with sepsis would have to undergo?" since you know it is crucial to take immediate treatment as sepsis can rapidly progress to septic shock and even death if left untreated.
The common medications that doctor use in the treatment of this condition include:
Blood sugar is stabilized with insulin
To fight off the infection, doctors prescribe antibiotics through IV
Corticosteroids for the reduction of inflammation
Vasoactive medications to increase blood pressure
In cases of severe sepsis, doctors may require a respirator if the patient is having difficulty breathing and may increase the required amounts of IV fluids. If kidney has been affected, dialysis is often required.
Surgery is also recommended in some cases to extract the source of infection. This procedure may include removing the infected area or tissue or draining an abscess filled with pus.
Last but not least, since sepsis is a serious medical condition, we should limit our risk of developing it. Be on top of your health and stay up to date with your vaccinations. Good hygiene is also important to avoid any infections. If you develop any signs of infection, seek medical help immediately.