When an infection is present, the body releases chemicals to fight off the infection. Sepsis occurs when these infection-fighting chemicals cause inflammation in the body. This inflammation is responsible for a variety of changes in the body and has the potential to damage organs.
Why it is Problematic
Sepsis is a serious and potentially fatal condition. Progressed sepsis (shock) can lead to death.
Causes and Risk Factors
Anyone can develop sepsis, although it is more commonly seen in the elderly and in those with compromised immune systems.
Sepsis is often viewed as a three-tiered syndrome: sepsis, severe sepsis, and shock. The first stage of sepsis is less dangerous and easier to treat. Symptoms in its mild stage are any two of the following:
- Fever above 101.3 F (38.5 C) or temperature below 95 F (35 C)
- Heart rate higher than 90 beats per minute
- Respiratory rate higher than 20 breaths per minute
- Probable or confirmed infection
Symptoms of severe sepsis will include one of the following, which may indicate liver failure:
- Abdominal pain
- Abnormal heart beats
- Abrupt change in mental status
- Decrease in platelet count
- Difficulty breathing
- Significant decrease in urine output
Symptoms of septic shock include:
one or more severe sepsis symptoms along with extremely low blood pressure that does not respond to simple fluid replacement.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention.
Sepsis can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to those indicative of other conditions.
Blood tests can identify an infection, impaired liver function, clotting problems, electrolyte imbalances, and impaired oxygen availability.
Imaging tests may be used.
Other lab tests may help detect sepsis. These include urine tests and wound secretion or respiratory secretion tests.
Treatment and Prevention
Early treatment for sepsis can increase the likelihood for survival. Individuals with severe sepsis need to stay in an intensive care unit for close supervision. In severe or shock cases, emergency procedures may be enacted to stabilize heart and breathing functions.
Medications to treat infection, including antibiotics,are used, as well as medications for pain and immune system modifiers. Measures and medications to stabilize blood pressure are used.
Surgery may be necessary to remove the source of the infection.
Roughly 750,000 people suffer from sepsis each year in the US. It is estimated that 28-50% of those with sepsis die as a result. Reported cases of sepsis have been on the rise in recent years.