Sepsis

Sepsis is a potentially fatal medical condition that occurs in response to a bacterial or viral infection in which the body is damaged by that patient’s own immune system. People commonly know sepsis as overreaction of the body’s immune system. This overactive immunity can attack the tissues of several organs and disable their functions. 

More details about Sepsis 

You may consider sepsis’s meaning as the unnatural way in which your body responds to an infection affecting any body part. Normally, infections in the skin, lungs, or urinary tract can be the reasons for this medical condition. This illness is not contagious itself, though a contagious infection may trigger it. If medical treatment is not provided at the right time, it can be life threatening.   

What are the main stages of sepsis?

Sepsis is a condition that can transform from stage wise. 

  1. The prime symptoms of the infection accompany a high fever and fast breathing. However, it should be diagnosed and treated very quickly before it proceeds to the next stages. 
  2. Severe sepsis is the stage when one or more organs fail to function properly. Generally, infections in blood, kidneys, lungs, or abdomen trigger such a serious condition that can impose greater risk on a patient’s life.
  3. Septic shock is a fatal stage where patients develop various complications, along with a sharp drop in blood pressure level. 

What are the symptoms associated with sepsis?

The initial stage of sepsis can be diagnosed by the presence of a few of the following symptoms.

  • The body temperature rises above 101 degrees Fahrenheit in high fever, or the body becomes colder than 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The patient’s breathing becomes very fast, with the breathing rate measured above 20 breaths /1 minute. 
  • Heartbeat rate also rises above 90 beats/ a minute, causing palpitations. 
  • A doctor confirms infection in any body organ.

Patients suffer from many other symptoms in the severe sepsis stage, as multiple organs stop working at this time.

  • Reduction in the frequency of urination 
  • Shortness in breathing
  • Abrupt changes in the mental condition
  • Fading of the skin at the infected areas
  • Irregularity in the heartbeats
  • A sharp decrease in the platelet count
  • The body becomes overall very weak
  • A feeling of unpleasant coldness
  • Loss of consciousness

All these symptoms are also seen in septic shock cases, with the addition of an alarming decrease in the blood pressure. 

When should you see a doctor? 

Usually, patients undergoing treatment in hospitals are most vulnerable to infections leading to sepsis. If you notice two or more symptoms of the initial stage of sepsis after undergoing surgery, you should inform your doctor immediately since such symptoms can develop while the patient is still recovering from post-surgical effects in the hospital.

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What are the causes responsible for sepsis?

Different types of infections are the prime reasons that gradually turn into the condition of sepsis. The following infections can be caused due to harmful bacteria, viruses, or fungi that invade a human body.

  • Bacterial infection of the blood called bacteremia
  • Infection in the bones termed to be osteomyelitis
  • Infections in various parts of the digestive tract, gallbladder, liver, abdominal cavity, and appendix
  • Infection in the lungs resulting in pneumonia
  • Infections of the kidneys and urinary tract, frequently caused by catheters
  • Bacterial infections caused due to wounds on the skin, cellulitis, and other types of skin inflammations
  • Infection of the brain, its coverings called meninges, and spinal cord

Any infection may turn into sepsis for the following people, who face higher risks of this severe medical condition.

  • Aged people over the age of 65 years
  • Patients who have diabetes, kidney problems, respiratory ailments, cirrhosis of the liver, or cancer
  • People having very weak immune systems
  • Patients recovering from burn injuries or severe wounds
  • Pregnant women
  • Hospitalized children
  • Patients using IV or urinary catheters, or breathing tubes

What are the treatment procedures applied for sepsis?

Treatment for sepsis is based on the underlying cause .Doctor will follow different treatment guidelines and procedures based on the cause and severity of sepsis

  • IV fluids and oxygen – The patient  requires them to maintain the normal blood flow to all body organs. Doctors also provide oxygen to aid the easy breathing of the patient.
  • Antibiotic injections – Bacterial infections can be treated by administering intravenous antibiotic injections. 
  • Vasopressor medicines – This kind of medication enhances the patient’s blood pressure level when it drops to a dangerous point. It makes blood vessels narrower to increase blood pressure. 
  • Drugs for curing other ailments – Doctors may prescribe corticosteroids in limited doses to reduce inflammation and the overactive immune system. They may give insulin to control blood sugar levels and certain painkillers for temporary relief.
  • Supportive machines – In critical conditions, patients may need a breathing machine to support breathing ( BIpap machines/ventilators etc) and a dialysis machine, or continuous renal replacement machine to clear out toxins and reduce sepsis related complications 
  • Surgery – In some cases, doctors conduct surgeries to cure gangrene or abscesses, which can cause infections.

What can be the complications faced due to sepsis?

  • In the later stages of sepsis, patients suffer from severe damages in their kidneys, lungs, heart, and brain. 
  • Blood clotting and dead tissues in the limbs, fingers, and toes may result in amputation of the affected parts in extreme cases.
  • Further spread of infections in the septic shock stage may lead to death in some cases.

What are the few prevention tips?

You need to prevent infections to stay away from the danger of sepsis. Some effective steps can save you from all kinds of infections.

  • Take vaccines to prevent pneumonia, flu, chickenpox, and other diseases.
  • Maintain proper hygiene by frequently washing your hands with soap and water, taking a bath every day, and keeping your wounds neatly covered.
  • Call your doctor immediately to treat your infection before it turns worse.
  • Consult your doctor for  any kind of external injury even if it small cut by glass or any other materials
  • If any minor wound, take proper antiseptic measures for cleaning and dressing of the wound
  • Do not take any  antibiotics without consulting a doctor, as it will lead to antibiotic resistance and difficult to treat severe infections.

Conclusion 

Sepsis is an emergency condition that requires medical attention round the clock till the patient is out of danger.

FAQs 

Can sepsis inflict more than once?

Patients cured of sepsis may suffer from another bout of infection in any body part, which can turn into sepsis again.

What to do if a patient is spotted with symptoms of sepsis?

You need to call your doctor immediately if one or more symptoms can be seen in a patient suffering from any type of infection.

Do the symptoms of sepsis in children differ from those of adults?

Children suffering from high fever and rapid breathing, along with vomiting, rashes, and convulsions, may have sepsis. These symptoms are the same as adults, but their conditions may worsen faster than adult patients.