Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare medical condition that is life-threatening by nature and occurs due to various complications caused by some particular bacterial groups. Mostly, TSS is caused by Staphylococcus aureus or by Group A streptococcus.
TSS has no age and gender barrier and can affect anyone. This was most prominent in the 1970s when many young women used super-absorbent tampons and were diagnosed with TSS.
You have an increased risk of TSS if you are currently recovering from surgery, have burns or an open wound or are using prosthetic devices. Most TSS cases can turn dangerously fatal in a short amount of time. This is because the condition is caused by the body’s response to the toxin produced by the bacteria .
What are the symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome?
The following are a group of symptoms commonly displayed by patients suffering from Toxic Shock Syndrome. They are:
- Low blood pressure
- Sudden high fever
- Rash on the soles of your hands, feet and on your palms
- Muscle aches
- Redness in the throat, mouth and eye
When to see the doctor?
You must immediately call your doctor if you suffer from any of the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome. You must not take the symptoms lightly and should either call an ambulance or visit your nearest doctor immediately.
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What are the causes of Toxic Shock Syndrome?
TSS is commonly caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, one of the many staphylococcus bacteria present on the human skin. The bacteria resides in the vagina and is often harmless but can cause TSS when it gets the right environment to grow and multiply.
TSS occurs when the toxin produced by the bacteria enters the bloodstream. In case of tampon related TSS , since the tampon’s primary objective is to soak blood, it becomes ideal for the bacteria’s growth. Using the tampon requires sliding it into the vagina resulting in microscopic wounds that give the toxin easy access to the bloodstream. Tampon manufacturers no longer use the materials or designs that were linked with toxic shock syndrome now. read the labels if you use tampons, and make sure to use the lowest absorbency tampon. Change the tampons frequently, at least every 4 – 8 hours. Alternate using sanitary napkins and tampons, and use minipads when your flow is light.
What are the risk factors that cause TSS?
As mentioned before, TSS can happen to anyone. The factors that increase the risk of TSS among individuals, aside from menstruating females, are:
- Recent surgery
- Open wounds
- Viral infections such as chicken-pox or influenza
What are the complications involved in TSS?
Toxic shock syndrome is a very critical health condition that requires the doctor’s immediate assistance. Most complications from a toxic shock syndrome result in renal failure, shock and even death.
How is TSS diagnosed and treated?
There is no test designed to confirm TSS, although your doctor may ask you to get your blood and urine tested for the bacterial infection.
In the case of women, your vagina, throat and cervix may also be swabbed for investigation. Since a toxic shock can affect many other organs, your doctor may also ask you to have a computer tomography (CT) scan, X-Ray and a lumbar puncture performed.
The treatment of toxic shock syndrome involves hospitalisation and the administration of antibiotics. In the meantime, your doctor may also prescribe you medication to stabilise your blood pressure and treat other symptoms or organs that were affected.
How to prevent toxic shock syndrome?
TSS is rare, and it is highly unlikely for you to be infected if you have never had it before. But you are at an increased risk of being infected again if you had it once before.
Primarily, for menstruating young women, who frequently use tampons,
- It would be best if you did not use tampons made of a highly absorbent material
- You should change your tampon frequently: after every four to six hours.
- It is also recommended to use sanitary napkins when your flow is light.
- You should also not use tampons when you do not have a period.
- It would be best if you washed your hands before inserting the tampon. Wash your hands when changing a tampon as well.
- It would be best if you stored your tampon in a dry place devoid of bacterial growth.
TSS can also recur; therefore, if you have already suffered from TSS once, you should stop using tampons altogether.
In addition to this, ensure you keep your surroundings as sterile as possible while recovering from surgery or an open wound. Unnecessary infections in such cases can thus be prevented.
Also, you must keep your wound dry, bandaged and clean all the time. Change your bandages regularly. You should also immediately visit your doctor if you notice any infection in your wound.
Toxic Shock Syndrome is a rare but near-fatal condition when the bacterial infection spreads throughout the body via the toxins that have entered the bloodstream.
While TSS does not usually happen to everyone, it can frequently recur in those who have had it before. TSS is also most common among menstruating women using tampons. It is therefore advised to change your tampon and use ones with low absorbance frequently.
In the case of wounds and burns, you should keep the area clean and bandaged at all times.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the speed of progression of TSS?
For those having TSS from surgery, the infection can progress in as much as twelve hours after the surgical procedure. For menstruating women who are using tampons, the infection and the progression to TSS can occur after three to five days. You should talk to your doctor immediately if you observe the symptoms of TSS.
How quickly is the recovery from TSS?
Once admitted to the hospital, your doctor would administer strong antibiotics directly into your bloodstream. This is provided through an intravenous line (IV line). Your complete recovery may take six to eight weeks as the doctor would also be treating any other organ that the infection has damaged.
Can you recover from TSS?
When left untreated, TSS can be fatal. But when diagnosed early and treated correctly, you can completely recover from TSS. Therefore, it’s best to observe your symptoms and visit your doctor or call an ambulance without delay.